As The Great Gatsby enters the public domain, any future reinterpretations will have a hard time competing with The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo. Told from the perspective of the secondary, seemingly callous character of Jordan Baker, it is a story about a woman with modest magical powers in a world of demons, witches and artificial humans. The fascinating and horrifying nature of magic enhances the critique of the jazz age with sinister metaphors; callous rich people down shots of forbidden demon blood, ruthless social climbers sell their souls for a taste of wealth and glamour, and all that money can buy wondrous illusions that are as false as they are beautiful.
Jordan Baker is an Asian woman, adopted (or perhaps stolen) as an infant from Vietnam by a rich and flighty socialite. Now privileged but forever an outsider, she does her best to navigate her way through old money socialites. This isn’t made any easier by her fondness for both men and women, but at least love affairs give her some of the connection and affection that she craves.
It is through those connections that she becomes acquainted with Jay Gatsby, a dark figure who will do anything, no matter what, to get what he wants. With him, Jordan’s dear but frivolous friend Daisy, and Jordan’s sweet but weak-willed lover Nick Carraway, the foursome engage in a web of desire and contempt criss-crossed between all of them.
The Chosen and the Beautiful is an absolutely stunning work of magical realism, blending love and horror with an expert touch. From Jordan’s desire to reconnect with a culture she knows nothing about to Daisy’s helplessness in the face of her own social conventions, the characters and their wants and fears are painted so vividly that they jump off the page- just like the paper cut-outs Jordan can grant temporary life, part of a mystical tradition she has no context for understanding. Sexy, sinister and sorrowful, it invites readers into a world that challenges our own.
Whether you are a fan of The Great Gatsby, struggled to finish it in high school, or have never even picked it up, The Chosen and the Beautiful is enthralling and enchanting. Join Jordan in attending one of Gatsby’s parties, but keep a close eye on your fortune and your soul.
Written By: Mira G.