Cover Image: The Chosen and the Beautiful

The Chosen and the Beautiful

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Member Reviews

“The Chosen and the Beautiful” deserves to be read as closely as the book that inspired it. Vo’s prose is beautifully supple, and the novel shines when she reads “Gatsby” against the grain: The first page transforms one of Fitzgerald’s metaphors about women in summer into a captivating intimacy between Jordan and Daisy, and the whole of Chapter 4 is a stunning play on Fitzgerald’s use of the word “careless.” The novel falters, though, when integrating fantasy more generally: It’s such a tight reversal of its original’s core dynamics that there isn’t room for the fantastic elements to do more than gild the story’s lily. They only echo, diminished and indistinct, the tensions Vo’s already playing with to good effect, obstructing each other where they should blend, like a cocktail made with fine spirits but mixed in awkward proportions. Despite that, the book remains a sumptuous, decadent read.
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 "there was a monstrous want there, remorseless and relentless, and it made my stomach turn that it thought itself love."

This was an emotional,intense and atmospheric story!I really enjoyed the writing . The Chosen and The Beautiful is a retelling of The Great Gatsby told from the perspective of Jordan Baker, I'm ashamed to say that haven't read or watched The Great Gatsby so it was all new for me.

In this story you'll find important themes like identify , and that their voices matters.

"I wondered if that was what love was, making someone forget the pain that gnawed at them and would not stop."
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This book is absolutely gorgeous in it’s writing, although it’s a bit all over the place in plot.I’ve always been intrigued by how much of a non-character Jordan Baker is, and this book gives her a life that Fitzgerald deprived her of. I also feel like the writing really channeled the 1920s vibe and artistry Fitzgerald brought to his writing. Making Jordan and immigrant Vietnamese bisexual was also an interesting step towards diversifying a very white story. The ending felt rushed and very messy, but the rest of the book was stunning.
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I really loved this Gatsby retelling. Jordan has always been one of my favorite characters. So, I loved seeing the world through her eyes. This book was so beautifully written, queer, and well-done. I personally love the original and I think if you do as well you will also like this. However, if you are not a fan of the original, I’m not sure that this will change that opinion for you.
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The Chosen and The Beautiful 

Thanks to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

Super quick synopsis: Jordan Baker runs in the one most exclusive circle in New York - and also happens to be queer and Asian.

I went into this one mostly blind and think it's the way to go - I knew that this was a Gatsby retelling but I didn't realize how much Gatsby's world was intertwined in this novel. I read The Great Gatsby years ago but now want to go back and read it, with this different perspective in mind. I also wasn't anticipating the magical realism element to this book - it was a pleasant surprise. While beautiful writing, I did get lost in the story a bit a few times, with some of the flowery anguage and dreamy writing style. Overall, despite this being a retelling, I thought this was a really unique book with the magical element realism, demons, and the LGBTQ+ aspect. A refreshing take on an old classic, and one that may just have me picking up more books with magical realism!
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🎉Happy Pub Day to THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL by Nghi Vo!🎉
I’ve always loved The Great Gatsby, but tend to avoid retellings of classic stories. Something about the blurb for this one just drew me in, though, and I’m so glad I read it! 💖
In this beautifully written reimagining of Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, Nick doesn’t narrate the tale ... Jordan does! Not only that, but Jordan is Asian, queer, and adopted into the well-to-do Baker family. Following the plot line of the original with some imaginative embellishments, THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL walks readers through a well-known story from a different point-of-view, allowing for a rich commentary on the times and the original characters.
Purists may shy away from this one, afraid of spoiling their allegiance to the original ... but I say, go for it! This novel has the same magic as the original Gatsby, but also contains actual magical elements that are too stunning to spoil here. The writing is beautiful, the storytelling captivating, the choices bold.
Many thanks to @tordotcompub for gifting me an advance copy.
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The writing is beautiful and it's great to have a reimagining of a story featuring Asian and queer characters. I was however, expecting more magic/fantasy and Jordan's character and identity being more of the central focus and not just simply a retelling with diverse characters.
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The concept of a magical Great Gatsby was so intriguing. I do wish that the magic system was more flushed out.
The story also was a bit predictable as it did closely follow The Great Gatsby. I thought it would have more twists and turns than it did.
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This was one of my most anticipated releases of this year. Even though I don't like The Great Gatsby, I do love retellings and I was hoping this author would make me feel something for the original characters ( spoiler alert: she didn't ) or show me some new take on an old story similar to what Spinning Silver did ( second spoiler: she didn't do that either ) 

There were some strong scenes there, especially the first scene when Gatsby and Nick meet was fantastic. But instead of following that scene with that complex dynamic between Gatsby and Nick, the author went on a journey to tell me about all Jordan's life. 

I think I have the same problem here that I had with the original story. I remember thinking TGG should've been narrated by Gatsby instead of Nick. Because of all the characters in the story, Gatsby is the only one that <i> wants </i> something.  And here's the thing, a narrator that doesn't desire anything isn't really interesting. 

I have the same issue with Jordan here that I had in the original with Nick. She simply has no desire, no want, no point of conflict, nothing to make me care or want to read more. The way she talks about her affairs and parties she attends is so emotionless, so cold and emotionally detached that I honestly felt like they were things she thought she had to do to confirm to social standard, instead of things she wanted to do . It would've been great if THAT aspect was explored, but no there is absolutely nothing interesting in her perspective. 

I've heard so many good things about this author's writing and her novella series. I already planned to read those books after I gave this a try. But after reading this I feel like her writing isn't just for me.
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I was immediately intrigued when I heard that a fantasy retelling of The Great Gatsby told from Jordan Baker’s perspective was in the works. I’ve always been fascinated by The Great Gatsby, both by the characters and Fitzgerald’s writing style. It’s not the most accessible of novels, despite its brevity, but there’s something magnetic about it, much as there is that same special magnetism surrounding the title character himself. I was very interested in seeing how these characters translated in the hands of another, with magic added to the mix. The author did a pretty great job capturing the tone and feel of the original while still making the story their own.

The imagery is truly stunning, and captures the core essence of a Gatsby party as portrayed in the original novel to perfection. But the narrative itself is muddled and hard to follow. The inside of Jordan’s head is a vague and confusing place to be. This felt true to the original, but the muddy quality of the narrative made it difficult to become fully invested, and I found myself putting the book down after reading only a handful of pages and only reluctantly picking it back up. I just couldn’t connect. While this is something I often excuse in classic fiction like The Great Gatsby, I have a harder time looking past it in a new release, even when said new work is a retelling. 

I appreciated how the author incorporated discussion of race and sexuality without ever actually falling into a diatribe on the topics, and I felt like Jordan was a really great vessel through which to explore those topics. I also felt like the characterizations for Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby himself were absolutely spot on. But there was something about getting the entirety of the story from Jordan’s perspective that made the whole book feel like a fever dream, which is more than likely why it took me so long to plow through its less than 300 pages. 

The Chosen and the Beautiful is a unique, interesting take on what has been labeled by some as the Great American Novel. I do think it’s absolutely worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of the original. Just be content with taking your time as you journey through it, and don’t be surprised if the depth you feel sure is lurking beneath the surface manages to evade you. It’s much like a Gatsby party in that way.
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Both books in the Singing Hills Cycle are some of my favourites ever, so I jumped at the opportunity to read anything else by the author. Sadly, this novel was just too different from what I expected. 
We still got that magical writing paired with a feverish atmosphere composed of occultism and demons. However, besides that, the story of Jay Gatsby's obsession with Daisy and the ultimate tragedy that befalls them were unaltered.
I feel like, by having read the original, I would have connected more deeply with the story, but that was not the case. Still, I cannot wait to read anything else Vo writes.
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When I think about this book I am very unsure.

On one hand, there are moments when I love love love the writing so much that it breaks me apart.

But then at other times, I don’t like the glancing, oblique references to a larger magical and social world that is never fully explained (and never intended to be). Similar to how Jane Austen never wrote about contemp social issues, all the mentions of larger world problems in this novel are fleeting and superficial. But they’re also intended to be like that.

I think I would have enjoyed the novel more if it had a more concrete narrative arc. As it stands, the novel is very much a glimpse into a vaguely magical Great Gatsby summer PLUS an asian main character. It’s not a mystery, it’s not a coming of age novel. It’s a moment from a summer and another world that you are able to fleetingly glimpse and the just as quickly as you entered, you’re forced to leave.

My issue with immersion. Reading the novel didn’t feel as transportive as Vo’s other works. But for what it is, a playful rendition and outsider POV of the Great Gatsby, Vo gives as good as she gets.
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I forced myself to read The Great Gatsby just so I would have the appropriate context, going into this book. For years, I struggled with Fitzgerald's writing, finding the ditzy glamor of Gatsby lacking in self-awareness or any particularly meaningful commentary on class, gender, social conventions, and race. As the writing style so closely emulates the original, I struggled with prose of The Chosen and the Beautiful as well. But the magic, the romance, the way Tom's blatant racism hits differently just by virtue of having a non-white person in the room, the complexities of being a rich adoptee as well as Vietnamese and a woman and queer... I wish every "great American classic" could get the Nghi Vo treatment. This book pops the bubble of privileged white fantasia while simultaneously casting Gatsby and his companions in a new, irresistible glamor.
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Rating: 5/5 paper girls come to life

Format: ebook. I’d like to thank the author and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review!

To sum up:
Immigrant. Socialite. Magician. 

These are the components that make up the main character in this dazzling Great Gatsby retelling. This story is told from the point of view of Jordan Baker, but not Jordan Baker as you know her. This Jordan is queer, Asian, and adopted, transplanted into the swinging jazz age of excess that was the American 1920s. Through Jordan’s eyes, we see this familiar world and characters retold in a fascinating new way. You might think you know this story, but in these hands, you most certainly do not!

What I enjoyed: 
This is a strange and beautiful little story. There is magic brimming in the language, in the time period, and at the edges of the plot, always present but usually not taking the main stage. Vo’s prose is languid one moment, but then slices you open the next. She weaves together a new tapestry out of the old threads of this story, giving it a brand new life and interpretation. I absolutely loved being in Jordan Baker’s head and seeing how she saw this world. I loved the queer representation (absolutely made sense to me and this is now canon lol). I also felt the POV from an immigrant and underrepresented minority really tore this story open for analysis in a great way.

What was meh:
I don’t have anything bad to say here! I loved every page. Sometimes I didn’t know where it was going (metaphorically) but if you’re up for the ride then you’re sure to enjoy it (and think about it long after)!

Overall, I loved this magical and riveting retelling of the Great Gatsby! I’d highly recommend for fans of the original and fans of fiction set in the 1920s era!
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The Great Gatsby moved into the public domain either this year or last, and it didn't take long for a retelling to show up on the scene. I loved the premise of this - Jordan Baker is recast as a queer woman adopted (or stolen, as is intimated) from Vietnam as a baby by a missionary and raised by an affluent white family in Louisville. She's a professional golfer, but that very rarely comes up in the narrative; most of the story is about her relationships with Daisy Fay (later Daisy Buchanan) and Nick Carroway. The writing here was beautiful, and I think that Nghi Vo really captured the dreamy, lush 1920s prose, and if the story was just this retelling from an entirely new angle, I would probably have gone with 5 stars. The thing that knocked it down for me was that there was also this thread of magical realism/fantasy/supernatural throughout the book, and it was both too much of that happening and too little explanation of why people have their own imps, or why they can make deals with the devil, or why they can fly and do magic. It kind of felt like two books - both of which I liked, but they didn't totally mesh together for me.
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TITLE: The Chosen and the Beautiful
272 pages, Tordotcom Publishing, ISBN 9781250784780

DESCRIPTION: (from the back cover): 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 and Asian, a Vietnamese adoptee 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. In The Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo reinvents F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess.

MY RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Nigh Vo’s reinvention of The Great Gatsby gives voice to characters Fitzgerald barely allowed to speak and classes of people he barely acknowledged existed (if at all), and in doing so opens up the narrative in wonderful, startling ways. And the author does it all while adhering pretty closely to Fitzgerald’s plot and pacing. Vo and fellow authors like Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom, which reinvents Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook”), are at the leading edge of writers who are confronting the racism in American classics (sometimes blatant, as with Lovecraft, sometimes by total exclusion from the narrative, like Fitzgerald) by filling in the time-gaps in the original novels or by showing key scenes from a new or different character’s perspective.

Vo does this first and foremost by having Jordan Baker, who is barely a presence in Fitzgerald’s novel, become our narrator in place of Nick Carroway. Giving us the story from any woman’s perspective would change how we see the events of Gatsby but giving it to us through the eyes of a character Fitzgerald didn’t bother to develop allows Vo to fill in scenes Fitzgerald doesn’t give us. And since Jordan is so ill-defined in the original novel, Vo can make the character anyone she wants Jordan to be – in this case, a child ripped from her homeland by an earnest missionary and raised in relative high society. We never quite learn whether Jordan was actually an orphan when she was brought to the States, but the heavy implication is that she was “rescued” perhaps against her family’s will. Vo uses Jordan to shed light not just on how the rich view anyone who is different but also on the unsavory aspects of the Chinese Exclusion Act and other anti-Asian-immigration legislation of the era. (And if that isn’t timely and pertinent in 2021, you’re not paying attention.) 

Vo also expands the sexuality of the main characters. Jordan is clearly bisexual (or maybe what we would now call pansexual) as are, by implication at least, Gatsby and Nick and perhaps even Daisy. We never see Gatsby and Nick in the act, as it were, but Jordan sees through their denials pretty easily. There’s no judgement between the characters, although there is a fair amount of jealousy. And this is one spot where Jordan is more like her rich white peers than she’d like to admit: they all seem to “get away” with same-sex liaisons without fear of repercussion – even though in that time period being found out as a “degenerate” could result in jail time, psychiatric hospitalization, and loss of job/family/etc. (I put “get away” in quotes because while the societal repercussions may not be explored, the emotional ones are – these characters devastate each other over and over again, and it’s both fascinating and infuriating to watch.) The possibilities of being caught by the police never seem to occur to the characters, although there is a nod toward the magic that hides a gay nightclub in plain sight.

And that’s the other major difference between The Great Gatsby and The Chosen and the Beautiful: the magic. Vo builds the societal acceptance of magic into virtually every page of the book. “Demonaic” liquor enables Jordan and Daisy to float around the ceilings of Daisy and Tom’s mansion at the start of the book. We learn that Jordan is able to do paper magic, building things and even people out of paper. She’s the only one she knows who can do this, until she meets some Chinese performers via one of Gatsby’s parties and discovers how much more powerful this magic can be. There’s the heavy implication that the “money” behind Gatsby being able to afford his mansion and parties is literally infernal. The magic isn’t just set-dressing. Vo has clearly given a lot of thought to how it all works, and to how and where it informs/influences the events of the original novel.

And here’s where I have to admit: I have no recall of every having read The Great Gatsby in high school or college. Classmates assure me we did, but it was probably one of those books I skimmed the Cliff Notes for because I hated being told what to read when I was in high school. I also have never seen the various movie adaptations. So once I was done with The Chosen and the Beautiful, I decided I had to read Gatsby to see how closely Vo stuck to the source material. After doing so, I was even more impressed with the magic Vo introduces – little innocuous turns of phrase in Fitzgerald’s hands turn into beautifully detailed magic in Vo’s. Which really can be said of the whole book. I liked Gatsby well enough once I finally read it for what it is, but Vo expands it into so much more.

I received an e-ARC from NetGalley in advance of the book’s June 1 publication date, although this review is being posted well after that date.
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The glitter and glamour of the 1920’s collide with demonic pacts and whimsical magic in this delightfully nuanced re-invention of the classic so many know and love.

 We follow Jordan Barker, a delightful curiosity among her peers and a foreign oddity to others through a story both bright as it is dark and coy as it is brutally honest. 
She navigates the high society of 1920’s America with ease but there is more to the world she moves through and her own past that she knows.
 A diverse and intriguing cast of side characters weave through our main character’s story, shaping both her perception of herself and her past.

 Vo’s characteristic alluring prose brings this world to life, making it both dreamlike and deeply reflective of the prejudice and hierarchy that exists in societies both past and present.   
 The magic system is truly unique and often unexpected. 
The plot itself drifts along like a dandelion seed on a summer breeze, softly winding through the day to day -and night- life of a young socialite enjoying every pleasure life has to offer. 
 Nearly every character brings an aspect of representation to the story be it in sexuality or ethnicity and casts a refreshing hue on a time period that is often dominated by straight white men. 

 Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this re-imagining of the Great Gatsby -though really, it is more than that - as someone who has neither read the book nor seen the movie adaptation of the original I did not feel I was missing out on any extra depth.
 A brilliant and distinctive story packed neatly into under 300 pages that will leave you dreaming of deals with demons and fabulous dresses and paper hearts.
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Beautifully written adaptation that expands the world of the Great Gatsby. Nghi Vo maintains the eloquence, style, and wit of the original while expanding it to give greater depth to the world around them.
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What is your favorite retelling?

Happy pub day to The Chosen and the Beautiful!! 🥳🥳 Thank you so much @tordotcompub for the arc!

The Chosen and the Beautiful has:
- Bi MC (with a f/m romantic plotline)
- Vietnamese American adoptee MC
- All that roaring twenties flair
- Magic and deals with demons
- A unique voice and perspective
- Queer love triangles with some definite poly vibes

Going in, I didn't expect The Chosen and the Beautiful to be such a close retelling of The Great Gatsby, but I loved the addition of Jordan Baker's cynical perspective.

In this retelling, Jordan Baker is still the rich tennis star, but she is also a Vietnamese American adoptee whose experience differs from her peers as she deals with racial microaggressions and the threat of racial and immigration politics.

I loved seeing the intersections of race and class in Jordan's interactions and day-to-day life.

If you know The Great Gatsby, you generally know where the main threads of the story are going, but I loved the way that Nghi Vo set up Gatsby as a more ominous and threatening character from the beginning because of Jordan's POV and the magical system in place.

I would have liked to see more development for both magical systems that appear in the book. Though each still served its purpose, they fell a little flat for me.

Saying that, this a book filled with Nghi Vo's wonderful signature prose and is an interesting take in The Great Gatsby story!
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This book was such a treat, especially for fans of Gatsby, the Roaring 20's, reimaginings of classics, and diverse representation. I think what felt so unique to this story at the forefront was that it was told from one of the more minor characters in the original, Jordan Baker, who in this version, happens to also be an adopted Vietnamese woman who is also queer. This story felt true to the original Great Gatsby, but it also brought such a fresh take, especially with the intertwining of magic and the fantastical. At first, I worried it would feel too forced or strange (especially as a reader who ADORES the classics), but if anything, I feel like Vo captured the 20's in a way that felt SO incredibly true. The magical aspects really brought to the light the glamorous yet dark undertones of the NYC elite in the post-WWI era. I loved the glitz and glamor of this retelling, but like the original, it did force me to grapple with the depravity of human nature especially when it comes to wealth and social status.

Most importantly, I loved Jordan's perspective. I feel like choosing a side character for this retelling actually made me appreciate the original even more. I also found it so interesting and necessary that Vo brought both Jordan's Asian American experience and queerness to the forefront, addressing the ways that prejudice affect her in the 20's. Even in this fantasy retelling, Vo didn't shy away from the racial and homophobic pretenses of the 20's. And as an Asian American reader, I really related to Jordan's experience, recognizing that in some ways, she is viewed as an "exception" compared to other Asian Americans, or viewed as an exotic collectible to the white gaze surrounding her. 

Overall, this was a wonderful, thought-provoking, and utterly magical retelling that I'd recommend to many.
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