The author of Crazy Rich Asians returns with the glittering tale of a young woman who finds herself torn between two men: the WASPY fiancé of her family's dreams and George Zao, the man she is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with.
Sex and Vanity is what A Room With a View might have been if E. M. Forster’s characters had been micron-deep, Instagram-obsessed and unable to make conversation. To understand Kwan’s novel it’s probably best that you revisit Forster’s, or at least watch the Merchant Ivory film adaptation...Then you will know which Edwardian plot device Kwan has replaced with drones ... This author is savvy enough to preserve his winning formula, at least in pieces. He takes care to include an insanely lavish wedding, in this case early in the book ... But neither Lucie nor any of her friends has anything smart or funny to say about their tourism. This is a surprise and a disappointment, since Kwan’s barbed insights made the earlier books so much fun ... Perhaps the world has changed more than he has. Maybe we’re not in the mood for a bookload of meringue ...But consider this, as others have already suggested: There’s no other way you’re getting to Capri this summer. Here’s a ticket. Too bad it’s not first class.
Some of the most stirring moments of the book occur when Kwan appears to address microaggressions against Asians, particularly within one’s own family ... Kwan’s fun with Forster notwithstanding, Sex and Vanity isn’t merely a rewrite of A Room With a View; reminiscent of Kwan’s earlier novels, it showcases his talent for creating flamboyant characters and settings that anyone can enjoy: no prior knowledge of the novel’s literary inspiration is required. At the same time, it’s also a timely story that pokes not too gently at some of society’s less tractable flaws.
Part of the novel’s fun is that Kwan is in on the joke: He excels at satirizing the uber-rich. He’s also an Olympic-level name-dropper. If I had a dollar for every reference to an A-list designer or brand mentioned here, I’d be — well, still not a fraction as wealthy as these characters ... Kwan’s trademark snark, which hooked Crazy Rich Asians fans, remains on display in this new offering. As in his earlier novels, his flippant footnotes are at times more enticing than the story line itself ... Though Kwan hints at the complexities of being mixed-race, there’s no deep, meaningful takeaway buried in the story. Few of the characters are particularly likable, and they’re certainly not relatable....the novel lacks the pizazz that made Crazy Rich so successful ... Still, come for vacuous entertainment, and Sex and Vanity delivers. It’s all style and little substance...At a time when travel plans have been jettisoned or postponed, the novel offers a fun-filled vacation to a world marred only by the most trivial concerns. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and readers who follow suit can revel in the kind of extravagances that sound like a dream after months of isolation and anxiety during the coronarvirus pandemic ... It’s like a bubbly glass of expensive champagne: It goes down easy, but don’t expect to remember it the next day.