Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Chosen And The Beautiful by Nghi Vo


This novel is a retelling of The Great Gatsby but with a twist.  All the characters are the same as are the main plot elements.  Jay Gatsby is the rich, fascinating tycoon with an air of mystery.  He loves Daisy Buchanan who is unfortunately married to Tom Buchanan.  Daisy's cousin, Nick Carraday, is a charming young man fresh from World War I.  Then there is Jordan Baker, Daisy's friend and Nick's romantic interest.

But everything in this book has been turned on its edge.  In addition to the romantic entanglements, there is now a queer element introduced.  Jay loves Daisy but he also loves Nick.  Jordan loves Nick but she also loves Daisy.  Jordan is the book's main character and the story is told from her viewpoint.  She is rich and moves in the top social circles, but is never quite inside.  Jordan is an adopted Vietnamese child who was brought to the United States as a baby and has grown up as a native.  But a different face and sexuality is never quite accepted at the top.  

This novel was a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 and a Best Of Summer Pick by many publications.  The writing is lush and tugs the reader along, anxious to see what this author has done with the classic tale.  Sexuality imbues the prose as the characters mix and match in different combinations.  Yet those familiar with Gatsby know that the ending is tragic while expected.  I listened to this book and the narrator was great.  My only quibble was that I didn't like Daisy's voice, which was hesitant and high-pitched.  It seemed a bad match with a woman whose overriding characteristic was her demand that her will be done.  Jordan's voice was perfect and the reader is swept along on a tide of passion and action.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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