The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Expected publication: June 1st 2021 by Tordotcom
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT, Retelling
Representation: Vietnamese bi/pan MC, biracial Chinese bi/pan SC, biracial Black Native American SC character
Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.
Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.
Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.
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Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley.
I have a little mixed reaction about The Chosen and the Beautiful. While I did enjoy Nghi Vo’s visual and lyrical writing, it took me a bit to fully immerse myself into the world. This might shock many but I have never watched The Great Gatsby nor have I read the book. To say that I was confused about the setting and the connection between the characters is an understatement. In the same vein, this means that I’m not sure how much this book has deviated or stayed the same as compared to the original classic. Regardless, once I got used to the setting, the book just pulled me in.
Jordan’s an interesting character. Aloof and uncaring about others, Jordan does what she wants as she was adopted into the Baker family and is a part of the high society life. Magic runs in her veins. She endures conversations that have racist undertones and lives in a time where an Act was about to pass that bans all Asians. Through her, Nghi Vo discusses white supremacy, racial discrimination, and class struggles.
As mentioned before, Nghi Vo’s writing is enchanting. She perfectly described the lavish and dazzling lifestyle of a socialite and the magical elements of Jay Gatsby’s mansion and parties. The complicated relationship between the characters remains a mystery for me. Daisy, Jordan, Nick, Jay, and Tom’s lives are intertwined with magic and by fate. Feelings are messy and throw in the five of them, it becomes chaos.
Ultimately, this is Jordan’s story and her perspective of a queer Asian in the 1920s. The Chosen and the Beautiful is another beautiful creation by Nghi Vo. I just wished there were more explanations for certain things such as the magic and had more time to understand the relationship between each and every one of the characters.
Regardless, I had a wonderful time reading The Chosen and the Beautiful. Nghi Vo never fails to draw me into her works and I’m sure this will not be the last time.