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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Book Review: Sex and Vanity

Kevin Kwan, the writer of the Crazy Rich Asian series of books, has recently come out with a new novel called Sex and Vanity. As a fan of his books, I knew it was something that I had to have and read. I   do not know if being a fan was an advantage or disadvantage to reading the book: it was an advantage that I was familiar with his writing style, but it was a disadvantage that I expected too much from the book. I am not saying that it is bad, more of it not being what I expected.

Credit: Penguin Books

Sex and Vanity is about Lucie Churchill, a half-Asian young woman who has a scandalous summer fling in Capri which catches up with her years later when she is about to be married to the most eligible bachelor in the US. The book has a similar feel as Crazy Rich Asians with all the luxury and the name and brand dropping in every chapter. At some point though all the name dropping and the constant emphasis on how luxurious everyone’s lives are can get to be too much. I felt like it was fine to a certain extent, but it sometimes felt like a book filler more than anything else.

As far as the romance element in the book goes, I thought that while it was understandable for there to be tension between Lucie and George because of the summer fling/scandal, there did not seem to be enough to establish how the two fell for each other. There was enough reason for Lucie to make that crucial life decision at the end, but I felt like the novel made it seem it was largely because of George, even if to me that did not make that much sense.

I like that the book tackled how half-Asians struggle with their identity: when Lucie talks about the struggle to fit in as half-white and half-Asian and feeling not completely being accepted by both sides of her, I am reminded of friends who are of similar descent who have similar conflicting feelings.

If there is anything that I loved about this book it is the amazing supporting characters. Kevin Kwan seems to have a knack for having supporting characters who could just as easily have books about them. For Sex and Vanity my favorites would have to be Lucie’s fiancĂ©e, who is just so over the top but so into the entire thing that I can imagine him making such an interesting character to watch if it ever became a movie like Crazy Rich Asians. Another one that I love is George’s mother, another character that seems to march to a different drummer who I would love to see onscreen (if it ever happens).

While this book is separate from the Crazy Rich Asians series, it does give a nod to the previous books in a way by mentioning that during the wedding where Lucie and George had their fling that one of the guests was Astrid, a prominent character from the first series. It was not specifically mentioned that it was the same Astrid, but I would like to think that it was. 

If you liked Crazy Rich Asians, you would enjoy this book. Just do not expect too much from it like I did because as nice to read as this was, I liked Crazy Rich Asians better. The whole crazy rich white people concept just did not do it for me the same way the previous books did. I think maybe it is because I am Asian, so the former made more sense and was more relatable. It’s still a good read though.


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