Vo’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby is completely ridiculous, and I love it with the passion of a thousand burning hearts ... Not only does Vo capture the timbre of Fitzgerald’s lush prose, but she follows the trajectory of the novel’s contrails into another realm ... sounds like some monstrous act of literary desecration like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doing the Charleston. But The Chosen and the Beautiful is much closer to Joyce Carol Oates’s 2013 novel, The Accursed, her fiend-infused history of Princeton University ... Vo’s audacious amendments shift the register of The Great Gatsby, creating a story that galvanizes Fitzgerald’s classic and leaves a new one vibrating alongside. It may sound counterintuitive, but Vo’s introduction of witchcraft, necromancy and enchantment miraculously produces a more relevant novel than that poetic tale of a gaudy stalker and his closeted pimp that’s been passed off for decades as the ultimate interrogation of the American Dream. By inflating the story’s most fantastical implications, The Chosen and the Beautiful offers a timely consideration of class exploitation, sexual aggression and racial privilege ... Even the smallest enchanted details are tinged with infernal infection ... This novel’s wry wit and eerie eroticism are surely not for every mortal, but from the old bones of an American classic, Vo has conjured up something magically alive.
One expects to find novels like this on the shelves of a dream library, where all the great books that were never written reside ... a vibrant and queer reinvention of F. Scott Fitzgerald's jazz age classic ... I was captivated from the first sentence ... Vo gives us a dreamy, sharply-drawn glamour; a vibrant, penetrating exploration of character. The Chosen and the Beautiful is exactly enough ... why not raise a glass to Nghi Vo, whose name on the spine of a book seems to mean that whatever the pages within hold will be superlative?
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 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.
Vo has always demonstrated a talent for vivid and imaginative descriptions, a skill she turns up to eleven in The Chosen and the Beautiful ... exquisite. It fits perfectly with the era. It feels like something Fitzgerald or Evelyn Waugh might have written, minus the sexism, racism, and colonial mindset. The language is sumptuous and a little bit florid, like a flapper dress studded in crystals and beads. What Nghi Vo does with The Chosen and the Beautiful is nothing short of phenomenal. The novel dazzles as much as it cuts. Vo does The Great Gatsby far, far better than Fitzgerald ever did. Might as well reserve a spot on next year’s award ballots now, because this one will be hard to beat.
... a speculative take that reads even truer to the source material now than the original. Wielding the dexterous literary voice she flexed in her Singing Hills Cycle, Vo breathes fresh life and insight into the characters, themes and atmosphere. This is a reimagining that not only does justice to the original, but unearths what was subtext, centers what was margin, and cuts into the very meat of Fitzgerald’s intent. It’s a big task, to reinvent the wheel, particularly one so beloved and well-studied. Vo is a prime example of how a deft writer can do it successfully, strengthening the canon with the palimpsest of her interpretation ... You probably know the basics of the plot beats and the characters, but Vo’s exploration is a writhing, revolutionary thing. Her worldbuilding slots so cleanly into Fitzgerald’s plot it’s as if, perhaps, it was always there just underneath ... Contextualizing Gatsby’s famous themes through the lens of a queer magic immigrant Asian woman just makes sense, giving them new depth and insight ... If you’ve never read Nghi Vo before, prepare yourself for some of the sharpest prose you’ve ever come across. This voice is deftly drawn, the perfect evocation of Jazz Age bloodstained glamour. It truly feels like the Gatsby you know, with the camera perspective shifted just enough to gift a fresh angle, letting a new story come through. This is a quick, accessible read, but every word is cuttingly witty and well-placed, often mirrored with dual meaning ... Brilliant and devastating, The Chosen and the Beautiful is stiletto-sharp and sultry, an ambitious project that more than fulfills its potential.
The Chosen and the Beautiful makes...changes to Fitzgerald’s novel without sacrificing the gossamer charm of the original ... The world of The Chosen and the Beautiful is one in which the supernatural routinely brushes against the reality of the Jazz Age. Odd as this may sound at first, Vo makes it work, and beautifully ... The Chosen and the Beautiful pays close and fruitful attention to its source material ... Vo ingeniously weaves her fantasy elements into Fitzgerald’s world, making Gatsby a man rumored to be not a bootlegger but to have sold his soul to the demonic underworld to get the wealth he believes will win Daisy over ... The Chosen and the Beautiful sustains and expands the novel’s spell, venturing into subcultures and erotic adventures that Fitzgerald only hinted at or could not conceive ... The Great Gatsby is like one of the paper conjurations Vo’s Jordan creates with her scissors, cutting away everything that does not contribute to the enchantment to form a fleeting but glorious wonder.
This rewrite shakes up the homogeneity of the story yet stays true (in its way) to the Fitzgerald original ... A skilled storyteller, even with a tale as established in the public consciousness as this one, Vo’s descriptions of the fashions, drinks, and interiors of the early 1920s are thoroughly researched and pop out on the page ... Vo’s deployment of the Manchester Act somewhere after the halfway point seems more for plot than politics. More could have been made of this had Vo wished to. In any case, The Chosen and the Beautiful is enjoyable and holds a steady pace, even though most readers will know what will happen at the end—not necessarily a bad thing.
What I didn’t expect was a fantasy novel that not only treats Gatsby with respect, but that ingeniously makes use of Fitzgerald’s plot and even swatches of his dialogue, not to critique or parody the original, but to find ways of expanding its scope to address contemporary anxieties. Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful does all of this. Being queer, being an outsider, being Asian, being a woman—these may not have been much on Fitzgerald’s mind, but they make sense in terms of Fitzgerald’s overall critique of American values, and at times they fit in almost seamlessly with that critique ... None of this would work if Vo weren’t an unusually skilled and graceful stylist, who creates a voice for Jordan as distinctive as Nick’s in Fitzgerald’s original ... beautiful magic ... You probably needn’t have read Gatsby to enjoy Vo’s lively novel, but it’s a much richer experience if you have.
Nghi Vo perfectly strikes that balance of the new and the familiar ... the familiar contours of Fitzgerald’s tragedy are warped with a hazy dash of demonic and earthly magic. The result is an utterly captivating series of speakeasies, back-seat trysts, parties both grand and intimate and romances both magical and mundane, all spiraling through a miasma of Prohibition-era jingoism and entitlement toward its inevitably tragic conclusion. Vo is a remarkable writer whose talent for reviving Fitzgerald’s style of prose is reminiscent of Susanna Clarke channeling Jane Austen in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. But it is Vo’s additions to Gatsby’s original plot that truly shine. By foregrounding Jordan’s and Daisy’s perspectives rather than Nick’s, she recasts a story about the consequences of male overreach as one about the limitations of female and non-white agency ... The reader will likely know how Daisy’s story ends, but Jordan is in the spotlight here, and her story is just as captivating, if not more so. By putting her in the foreground, and highlighting the voice among Fitzgerald’s core characters that was the least heard, Vo has transformed The Great Gatsby utterly.
Retelling the original story with a queer Asian main character is quite the hefty challenge, yet Vo masters it beautifully ... Vo’s prose is lush and extraordinary detailed, and so reminiscent of Fitzgerald’s writing but somehow even more atmospheric and lyrical. Honestly, in the beginning of the book, I felt like I was watching a movie of The Great Gatsby but with the perspective shifted, which is of course the goal here, but it was done so seamlessly that I can only applaud Vo. There’s so much to love about this book: the diversity of reliving such a classic story through the eyes of a Vietnamese woman and the addition of queer characters brings a breath of fresh air. I loved how this characterization gave Vo the opportunity to approach topics breached in the original—the xenophobia, white supremacy, class struggles—with a new set of eyes ... a compelling expose of the Jazz Age—perfect for both lovers of the original story and those who are in need of a great story with fantastic, lyrical writing.
I absolutely didn’t expect Nghi Vo’s next book to take up the case of the much sidelined Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby and retell her story—but she has, and she’s done it so beautifully and so spellbindingly that it will captivate readers worldwide ... This version of Gatsby is thoroughly infused with magic, and its enchantments add new wrinkles to the familiar plot of Fitzgerald’s story ... a fresh point of view, and a wonderful sense of magical possibilities ... The book’s use of magic is interesting, but could have used a pinch more detail in the world-building, which is the only thing that keeps the book from a straight A grade. Jordan is blessed with the gift of second sight, and that is fascinatingly portrayed. The snobbery of 1920s society is skewered handily, and Vo points out the ugly attitudes which permeated the era. The Chosen and the Beautiful comes up just short of perfect, but it’s delightful and deserves a spot on your keeper shelf.
Nghi Vo delivers a Gatsby for the new 20s: decadent, dangerous, and dripping with magic ... Vo’s 1920s New York City is richly portrayed, and her attention to detail grounds the reader as they follow Jordan from party to glittering party ... The events of Vo’s novel follow the same series of events as Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but readers do not need to have read the earlier novel to enjoy The Chosen and the Beautiful. Those who have read both will admire the ways in which Vo both evokes the spirit of Fitzgerald’s book, while also poking subtle fun at some of its more outdated views ... Perhaps the most enjoyable parts of the novel are Jordan’s observations about the people around her. At turns devastating, witty, and revealing, she charms the reader and those she interacts with, even while the reader is aware of the intense vulnerability beneath her façade ... Ultimately, The Chosen and the Beautiful offers up a lush glimpse of decadence and corruption, interrogating America’s dark history through the eyes of a narrator it is impossible to forget.
Vo remains an excellent stylist and her magically infused alternate history and her version of Baker are both interesting enough that at times readers may wish the narrative wasn’t constrained by Fitzgerald’s original plotting and characters. Recommended for fans of Vo’s previous shorter work, or for readers of historical fantasy in general.
... extraordinary ... Vo balances the increasingly entangled lives of Jordan and her friends with flashbacks to Jordan and Daisy’s childhood and teen years. The plot unravels tantalizingly slowly, and Vo’s immersive prose never ceases to captivate. The Gatsby-related details and hints of magic will keep readers spellbound from start to finish.
Vo has crafted a retelling that, in many ways, surpasses the original, adding logic and depth to characters’ motivations while still—uncannily—unspooling the familiar story. Astonishingly crafted, with luscious prose and appeal for both fans of the original and those who always felt The Great Gatsby missed the mark. With magic creeping in around the edges, this is a unique, well-developed, and haunting Gatsby retelling.