The Chosen and the Beautiful is a 2021 novel by Nghi Vo that reimagines F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby through the eyes of Jordan Baker, a minor character in the original story. In this retelling, Jordan is reimagined as a queer, Vietnamese adoptee who possesses magical powers. The novel explores themes of identity, belonging, and power, as well as the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.
At the heart of the story is Jordan Baker, a golf champion and flapper who is known for her beauty, wit, and disregard for social conventions. Vo’s reimagining of Jordan gives her a new depth and complexity, exploring her racial identity as an Asian-American adoptee and her sexuality as a queer woman. Jordan’s magical powers also add a new dimension to her character, allowing her to see through the facade of the people around her and to manipulate reality to her advantage.
The novel’s plot largely follows the events of The Great Gatsby, with Jordan as the protagonist rather than Nick Carraway. Jordan becomes friends with Gatsby and is drawn into his world of wealth and excess, attending his lavish parties and witnessing his doomed love affair with Daisy Buchanan. But while the novel is grounded in Fitzgerald’s story, Vo’s writing is distinctly her own, with a lyrical and dreamlike quality that is both beautiful and haunting.
One of the strengths of The Chosen and the Beautiful is its exploration of the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. Jordan’s experiences as a queer Asian-American woman give the novel a fresh perspective on the familiar story of The Great Gatsby. Vo’s writing is nuanced and thought-provoking, exploring issues of identity and belonging with sensitivity and insight.
The novel’s magical elements are also a standout feature. Vo’s use of magic adds a surreal and otherworldly quality to the story, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Jordan’s abilities as a magician give her a unique perspective on the world around her, allowing her to see the truth behind the illusions and to manipulate reality to her advantage.
Another strength of the novel is its lush and evocative writing. Vo’s prose is poetic and dreamlike, with vivid descriptions that bring the world of the novel to life. Her writing is at once beautiful and haunting, capturing the opulence and excess of the 1920s as well as the darkness that lurks beneath the surface.
The Chosen and the Beautiful is a stunning and innovative retelling of The Great Gatsby that offers a fresh perspective on a classic story. Vo’s reimagining of Jordan Baker is both compelling and nuanced, exploring issues of identity, power, and belonging with sensitivity and insight. The novel’s magical elements add a surreal and dreamlike quality to the story, while its lush and evocative writing brings the world of the novel to life. It’s a novel that is sure to captivate readers with its beauty and its thought-provoking exploration of race, gender, and sexuality. You can buy The Chosen and the Beautiful from Amazon here.