The Chosen and the Beautiful
May 15, 2022 8:13 AM - Subscribe

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. 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.
posted by rednikki (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had to post this because I have a book hangover now! I was familiar with Nghi Vo from her Hugo winning novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune. This is a very different setting and a very different story. Her lyrical writing remains throughout.

This story is very different when seen through the eyes of Jordan Baker as opposed to Nick Carraway. We can see where Jordan's choices come from, and more broadly the choices of society women of the era generally.

The magical elements only enhanced the story rather than detracting from it.

This made me want to read The Great Gatsby again, and I hated the shit out of that book when I read it.
posted by rednikki at 8:20 AM on May 15, 2022

I wasn't as impressed by it as I wanted to be, and in part because of the magical elements. It made it feel like the book was trying to do too much; tell the story from Jordan Baker's point of view. Great! Add magic to an existing story, great!

But both of them felt a bit more confusing to me than anything. Is this a retelling from another point of view? No, not really, because there are demons and they can fly? Do we get a new insight into Jordan Baker from the original story? Not really, because just a bit too much has changed.

Maybe if I re-read the original around the same time it would help see more of the parallels, but as it is... it felt more confusing than anything, at least to me.
posted by vernondalhart at 12:55 PM on May 15, 2022 [1 favorite]


Oh, I liked this book! I did reread Gatsby immediately before (I liked it when I read it as a teenager too, but, uh, I definitely understood it differently on reread).

Not gonna lie, some of the magic elements started to veer toward corny fanfic for me (lol demon blood; sure, Gatsby is a vampire, why not), but I really loved the paper magic, and the way the floating ladies at the beginning were literally floating, and the paper man twist at the end for Nick was thrilling, I thought. I loved Jordan's lens on the world as an outsider/insider and the ambiguity of her adoption and the way she was thrown into an increasingly racist United States.
posted by purpleclover at 4:24 PM on May 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

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