I woke up today feeling almost sort of normal so I am very quickly going to write this before the world stops working again. Forgive the typos.
I am now halfway through the ketamine treatment for depression and it’s just as strange as I expected it would be. I will eventually write a whole post about everything but my depression has made it hard to think and my motivation and energy levels have been too low to do it justice, but I can say that the first session was weird as hell, the second was slightly awful as I fell into a k-hole of existential dread, and the third was really quite lovely. Supposedly you don’t really feel a difference in your mood until your 4th session so the fact that I feel about the same (with a promising bit of energy though today) doesn’t really mean anything. But I’ll keep trying. Hope is always there.
In other news, I am very behind on opening up the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club discussion for last month’s book, The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo, so I’m opening up discussion here and on the Fantastic Strangeling Book Club Facebook page. As always, there are no rules in book club and you can feel free to read as quickly or slowly or pass the books off to friends or hoard them like dragon’s gold.
And in case you missed it, this month’s book is Carrot Quinn’s The Sunset Route. And it’s not too late to join and get a signed membership postcard if you want in. Just click here to sign up.
My thoughts on The Chosen and the Beautiful (I had a lot) are in the comments.
PS. If you’re the kind of person who needs more than one book a month to devour let me suggest these new July books that I loved:
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix, She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Serial Killer by Dean Jobb, The Comfort Book by Matt Haig, Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, Island Queen by Vanessa Riley.
20 thoughts on “The Chosen and the Beautiful”
Read comments below or add one.
So here are my thoughts on The Chosen and the Beautiful.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS:
I wasn’t prepared to like this book because I’m one of the rare people who thought The Great Gatsby was fine but overrated. But this version hit all the right points for me.
My favorite addition was the magic. Having Daisy as part fairy makes total sense because I never understood her draw but if it’s fairy magic that totally fits, especially when you remember that fairies are sort of psychotic and vengeful and love to play with humans. The part where Jordan makes a paper version of Daisy was one of my favorites both in being able to watch Jordan discover this magic she had in herself and because the idea of Daisy killing her double had so many interpretations. Was it showing that Daisy had let herself become a paper wife, a pale copy of herself she thought was expected of her and that in killing that paper wife was killing the part of her that was younger and more naïve? Or was it just showing that Daisy is unable to feel emotions and had no qualms about using and destroying people…even if the person was herself?
I thought it was really interesting how often Daisy was dazzled not by feeling love (I don’t know that she ever truly expresses or knows how to love) but by being loved. As if she’s only worthwhile because of the value someone else puts on her. It was a good reflection on the way the characters put such a value on ridiculous possessions or ancestry while putting so little value on actual people, able to throw away or ignore people, particularly in class or race settings.
I loved how the author used The Manchester act as a stand-in for the other anti-immigrant laws that were brewing at the time and how she explored Jordan’s rescue-that-was-really-an-abduction. I thought it was really telling how it was easy for Jordan’s friends and family to not think about it or to tell Jordan that she didn’t have to worry about the Manchester Act because she was smart or had money or was “different” when that just promoted another form or classism while also just being incredibly blind to the truth.
Having Nick be a paper double was so perfect because I always found him very hollow in this book and The Great Gatsby so when that reveal came I was like, “OMG, OF COURSE HE IS JUST A SHELL.” And I adored that in the end she left him with a fresh new heart with space for love.
My biggest complaint about the book is that I often thought an amazing story or some kind of foreshadowing would start and then not really go anywhere, like Gatsby’s resurrected library complete with sealed demon books and the man who was sort of living there or the ghosts in Jordan’s house. It almost felt like those could have been a whole other books. But at the same time, I eventually felt that all of the tiny untold stories added to the sumptuous luxury of the book. That even in the book there were thousands of wonderful and terrible tales that we breezed past like we were at this overindulgent party ourselves and that were left to our own imagination. The Anti-Chekhov, in a way.
I LOVED how the ghost of Myrtle Wilson was rescued by Jordan from forever throwing her ghostly self at cars. Except I don’t actually think she was a ghost. I think she was resurrected, but how? It’s implied that sometimes the dead just come back but I wish there was a whole second book all about Myrtle and her life and undeath. I love that she left to follow Daisy and Tom to Barcelona, like a physical manifestation of the guilt they should feel and of the justice that was never carried out. I assume she ate their faces off like most zombies do, but maybe revenants in that universe are different.
I did have a question at the end though…at one point Jordan cuts herself and tastes her own blood which was burning hot and let her see visions. So was that an allusion to her being a demon? Or had drinking so many demoniacs turned her blood?
I absolutely adored the prose in this book and found myself marking so many pages I loved. Like when Daisy talks about being loved and having everything she physically wanted. “Happiness must come later, don’t you think?” Ow. Or this paragraph from the middle of the book:
“The night before her wedding, Daisy taught me that after the world ended, you still had to get up in the morning, and the things you ruined would still be there, needing to be fixed. When I looked at the famous Jay Gatsby, soul gone and some terrible engine he called love driving him now, I could see that for him, the world was always ending. For him it was all a wreck and a ruin, and he had no idea why the rest of us weren’t screaming.”
I mean, hot damn…that’s great writing.
What did you think?
I really hope you continue feeling a bit better! A bit better each day. <3
As for the book — I adored it. I listened to the audio which was brilliantly done. Everything hit just a bit harder spoken aloud in Natalie Naudus’ smoky voice. You’ve captured a lot of what I loved about it here. It was so much better and deeper than the original and I loved the choice of Jordan for POV. I foresee buying it for several people for Christmas this year XD. So far it holds the top slot in my top 10 for the year.
Enjoyed the book, but my brain was having a difficult time coping with a second version of the same storyline. Not totally objectionable to have unbidden visions of Robert Redford….
Thanks for the book rec! I have reserved the ones my library has. Because I have a physical job, I can listen to audiobooks all day long. This will be the first year in a long time that I have read over 100 books.
Who else has recs for me? I loved “A Man Called Ove,” I did NOT love “A Discovery of Witches.”
@becomingcliche – Britt Marie Was Here is almost as good as Ove so if you like Ove, you ought to like Britt Marie.
Hope is always there! Hopefully the fourth time is the charm for you. There is so much more attention, appreciation and understanding and research on mental health than ever before. As we embrace mental health as just part of our physical health and the stigma goes away, more is being done to help people struggling with it. You never know when you might find the thing that works for you and when something new might be created to help you.
They just approved a new at home treatment for migraines that hopefully will help those of us who suffer from them. I’ve suffered from migraines from a very young age and nothing has ever worked for me and most medicine has caused me awful side effects. The thought that a non-pharmaceutical treatment has been approved for home use gives me hope that I can finally find the treatment that works for me after 50+ years of suffering.
You never know…
Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed for a little bit better every day! I’d say a lot better but I understand the nature of the demon that is depression. Thanks for the book recommendations! I’m going to be twisting my husband’s arm until he says, “yes, dear, you can subscribe to another book related thing that costs money every month.” Gentle hugs 💜
Your comments make me want to read it more than the general summary did. This year when we read Gatsby, one of my classes desperately wanted secret passages in the library and for G to really be a spy. I explained that with the copyright expired all these things were possible , get to writing. I hope you keep feeling better. I understand the lack of energy. https://possumscatsthingsgnawingatme.wordpress.com/2021/07/21/i-dont-want-to-be-sedated/
My treatments for pain were three off the bat and it was the day before my third treatment that I noticed anything different. Didn’t realize I was having a chest pain episode, until I realized that instead of crippling pain, it was a dull ache.
I’m still working on the PTSD, anxiety, and depression front myself. Got another infusion Saturday – it’s been 5 weeks since my last for pain.
I hope you start seeing a difference soon and it worls well for you!
I didn’t realize you were at the point of Ketamine treatments. Please look into micro-dosing psychedelics. John’s Hopkins and Mount Sinai have research centers as well as Berkley. So many people are having good results. You have options. ((Hugs))
Apparently I should have caffeinated before I checked your site. I thought you were calling us the chosen and the beautiful. It filled me with warm fuzzies.
I am in awe of your journey and strength. Your cheering section will remain out here with our Pom poms flailing wildly and cow bells always clanking. Go go go!
Thinking of you lots! You are a rock star in my book
Sending you amazing amounts of energy, Jenny. Thank you for continuing to spread the good juju even as you struggle. Can’t wait to check out these books.
Just finished the novel, which was slow-going but a lovely tribute to the original. As an English teacher, I was troubled by her seemingly muddled references to East Egg and West Egg, which is such an important delineation in the original… (she refers to Gatsby’s house in East Egg and in West Egg)…am I missing something deeper? I find it hard to believe her editors let her get away with that mistake.
BTW, I loved that Nick and Gatsby are lovers…it perfectly expresses what we were all thinking back in high school.
Jenny, I have you in my prayers, I am coping with the loss off my husband, and truly understand the depth we can go to in our depressions. Very happy I can get some help with antidepressants, thankfully, and my heart goes out to you in these trying times. Be well, sweet lady…
Glad to hear you are doing the ketamine treatment, Jenny! It is SO EFFECTIVE but it is a doozy going through it! And thanks for the book recommendations!
I’m so glad you’re at sort of normal. It’s a relief to get there, at least. I hope the treatment helps!