They (whoever ‘they’ are) often say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, as it turns out, you can. The cover for The Chosen and the Beautiful promises a story of magic, glamour and decadence set between between the two great wars … and the book pretty much delivers.
Meet the sometimes-heroine of our story, Jordan Baker: taken from Vietnam as a child and raised by the old-money Baker clan as something of a socialite (that seems to be her actual job).
Jordan enjoys wealth, a wide circle of friends of both sexes whom she dances, drinks and sleeps with as the mood takes her. She plays golf (no wait, maybe that’s her actual job …) and occasionally dabbles in magic: Jordan has the ability to bring paper cuttings to like. She’s not very good at it – she crosses paths with other Vietnamese who’re a lot better at it. Still, she uses her ability to dig herself and her sometimes friend/sometimes lover Daisy out of situations that are not necessarily dangerous, but could have made their social standing somewhat precarious.
The turning point in Jordan’s story happens when she is sucked into the orbit of Jay Gatsby (yes, that Jay Gatsby) as he attempts to lure Daisy away from her dick of a husband, Tom …
This one felt familiar: after a pandemic and a series of terrorist attacks, America goes into lockdown … permanently. A strict curfew is imposed, and the population works from home, rarely leaves town and relies on shopping and media conglomerates for supplies and entertainment.
Yeah, that does sound familiar …
The story follows the lives of two women struggling in this world of isolation: Luce, the last musician to hold a concert before the lockdown came into force, and Rosemary, a young woman who’s never left home, but has taken a job as a talent scout for one for aforementioned media conglomerates.
This is very much a character-driven piece, doing a decent job of telling the story from two viewpoints. I preferred hearing from Rosemary to be honest, as she started off as a young girl living at home without much experience of life away from her parents farm. I enjoyed watching her stumble and grow as the story went on. I mean Luce’s story was great too, but since she’d been out and around before the lockdown, she already had experience of the “before time”, so I did find her side of things slightly less compelling.
The writing style is bordering on literary I would say, with a lot of the prose taking place in the characters heads. It’s easy to read with no rough edges to get in the way of a good story. It’s also not big on suspense really. The bad thing has already happened, so all there is to do is cope with it the best you can. That’s fair enough, but if you’re the kind of reader who needs to be drawn to read on, then you might struggle. But if you’re looking for a good character drama wrapped in great writing then you should give A Song For A New Day is definitely worth a punt.