In this magical reimagining of The Great Gatsby, Nghi Vo takes us on a trip that focuses the story around Jordan Baker, a Vietnamese, adopted, tennis star and the events of the original story.
Off the bat, this book is eons more diverse than its source material. While I love The Great Gatsby, I far prefer a story that is more nuanced and complex. Jordan is treated like a spectacle, something to be oohed and awed at instead of being her own whole person. She is disconnected from her heritage and feels uneasy when confronted with it. Her openness with sexuality is refreshing, remarking on relationships with women just as easily as those with men. The meat of this story is the obsession with Gatsby. Who he is, what he’s doing, why he is doing the things he does, and Jordan explores this with Nick and to a lesser extent Daisy.
If you’re familiar with the story by Fitzgerald, then I don’t really need to tell you more about the plot, if not, here is a brief synopsis. In the roaring twenties in New York, there are the old money sort, the new money sort, and the ones without. We focus on the ones with money. Jay Gatsby throws a party at his house almost nightly. They are extravagant and wild and everyone talks about how Gatsby came to be the man he is. Rumor has it, Jay Gatsby sold his soul. And so we see how Jordan, Nick, Daisy, and Tom all interact with Gatsby and the drama that ensues.
I really loved this take on an American classic. Let’s take something old and white and turn it into something diverse and magical. That’s my kind of retelling. I think telling the story from Jordan’s perspective was a really clever twist. It put us just inside the action enough to know what’s going on and who people are and what their motivations are while also keeping us far enough away to make the Gatsby storyline compelling. We know this story so how do you make it interesting? I think Nghi Vo did a great job at integrating elements like magic, demons, dragons, spells and curses and making something like the roaring twenties a landscape for that activity. It fits so well. I think the conversation about race and identity and adoption of children from other countries was really well thought out and gave more depth to the story. I thought the inclusion of queerness was superb and it played its role really well. The friendship bonds and how they can be just as toxic as romantic relationships was handled so perfectly and subtly until it could no longer be subtle.
Really I just think this was a fantastic bit of storytelling and turned a classic into something more modern and refined and I really hope that you enjoy it just as much if not more than I did.