Kevin Kwan Holds Tight to His Crown | Review: Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

6:00 AM

Retellings. Give us all the glamorous and witty retellings, Kevin Kwan. IT'S WHAT WE DESERVE. (Also, yes, I am making grabby hands at my screen. No, I have no regrets.) Sex and Vanity was kind of everything, okay?

Sex and Vanity 
by Kevin Kwan

The iconic author of the bestselling phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians returns with a glittering tale of love and longing as a young woman finds herself torn between two worlds–the WASP establishment of her father’s family and George Zao, a man she is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with.

On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao and she instantly can’t stand him. She can’t stand it when he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so that she can have the view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, she can’t stand that he knows more about Curzio Malaparte than she does, and she really can’t stand it when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa and they are caught by her snobbish, disapproving cousin, Charlotte. “Your mother is Chinese so it’s no surprise you’d be attracted to someone like him,” Charlotte teases. Daughter of an American-born-Chinese mother and blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucy is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment, and ultimately herself as she tries mightily to deny George entry into her world–and her heart. Moving between summer playgrounds of privilege, peppered with decadent food and extravagant fashion, Sex and Vanity is a truly modern love story, a daring homage to A Room with a View, and a brilliantly funny comedy of manners set between two cultures.

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
Rating: ★★★
As always, a copy of this book was provided by the author or publisher in exchange for my honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.    

We all know how much I love writing that reminds me of my beloved, dishy, dripping with pearls and scandal, reading origin story. In so many ways, Kevin Kwan is kind of like Cecily von Ziegesar for the modern age. Except, with every book he releases, he's kind of like, to translate it into meme speak (that's now a thing, okay?), "I am you but stronger."

Crazy Rich Asians was truly that book. It fed into all my luxurious, romantic, delectable and gossipy desires. Which ultimately made me want to grab a drink, sit out by the pool (well, okay, fine I don't have one) and plan my next power move. So, Sex and Vanity had a lot to live up to. Of course Kwan delivered. He made this spin on A Room with a View all the more indulgent, witty, and completely enjoyable.

Of course, it's important to note that this is not Crazy Rich Asians nor should you expect it to be. I really shouldn't have to say that, but it needed to be done anyways. Kwan's delightful tone is ever-present and it's easy to see hints of A Room with a View throughout the narrative as it mixes with a new, romantic feeling. Sex and Vanity encompasses all the qualities a good retelling should: it stays firm in its familiarity, but it updates it in a way that feels equally nostalgic and new.

As always, there's this smooth and sharp quality to Kwan's prose. It always goes down easy and makes you immediately want to ring up your best friend and say, "Oh my God, did you--" But, there is this underlying sharpness to it that makes you want to nod your head. You're not always going to like every single character, but that's part of Sex and Vanity's charm: I love them and sometimes, I love to hate them.

Ultimately, I had a lot of fun with Sex and Vanity. It was romantic, fun, and as welcoming as a cool breeze on a summer's day. Sex and Vanity should be at the top of any reader's beach reads list this year and is perfect for fans of Cecily von Ziegesar, Katharine McGee, and the iconic author himself: Kevin Kwan.
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