Good Morning America's July Book Club Pick
A CNN "Perfect Summer Read"
A New York Times "New & Noteworthy Book"
"Kevin Kwan has had a singular influence on Asian American storytelling and Hollywood’s pop cultural landscape."
— Yoonj Kim, Los Angeles Times
“Kevin Kwan has dedicated his fourth novel, Sex and Vanity, to two unique destinations. One is New York... the other is the Italian island of Capri... Both locales—rich, glamorous, and filled with their share of both insiders and outsiders looking for their ticket in—serve as backdrops for Kwan’s latest ode to love, class, and the problematic, hilarious search for happiness in a world spinning with too much of pretty much everything. Kwan… is an urban romantic and he’s also a keen observer of social mores and the Teflon charms of an offbeat character. Sex and Vanity is sharp, clever, and irresistibly drawn.”
— Cornelia Guest, Interview
"On its face, the story is a zippy beach read, but Kwan engages with serious subject matter (racism, identity, and deep-rooted Asian classism) all while thoroughly lampooning the extravagance of the ultrarich... The best part is that like all of Kwan’s work, Sex and Vanity also functions as a vacation read — it’s funny, there are ridiculous, steamy sex scenes, and part of the book takes place at a luxurious destination wedding. It’s the kind of thing you can take to whatever beach substitute you’re working with right now (the bedroom with the most sun, or a patch of asphalt at the nearest park) and escape for a little while."
— The Cut
"Sex and Vanity [is] both homage to A Room with a View and very much in Kwan's style. It begins as Forster's book does — with a hotel room swap — and then spins off into its own gold-plated world, with a few unexpectedly serious stops along the way... Kwan's witty Sex and Vanity is a fine beach read.
— Moira MacDonald, Chicago Tribune
"A romantic comedy set in New York and the Hamptons, and a nuanced exploration of race and identity."
"Another riveting tale of privilege, culture and romance... in a world of extravagant fashion and deceit, resulting in one truly modern love story that you won’t be able to put down."
"A summer romp with a satirical sting."
"Perfect for when your summer travel plans are on hold and you have wonderlust."
"When the room with a view is Kevin Kwan's, things might get wild... There’s no other way you’re getting to Capri this summer. Here’s a ticket."
— Janet Maslin, New York Times Book Review
"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... 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."
— Angela Haupt, Washington Post
"The Shakespeare of Status Anxiety... Dishy and delightful, filled with all sorts of bad behavior performed in couture. But as loose and fun and compulsively readable as they are, Kwan’s novels are also very clearly the work of someone who spends much of his social time paying extremely close attention."
—Ryan Bradley, The Atlantic
"A razor-sharp rake on the one percent... Like Truman Capote or Dominick Dunne before him, Kwan seems to be writing from inside the rarefied rooms where his stories take place—and he doesn’t pull any punches."
—Marshall Heyman, Town & Country
"Deliciously modern... drama, diamonds, and satire galore.
"Kevin Kwan's new book is his most decadent yet."
"Kwan’s latest novel Sex and Vanity is a retelling of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View. In Kwan’s hands, the classically white, British tale’s setting gets an update from the early 1900s to the 2010s, trading in a cast of characters from England’s stuffy upper crust for one of lavish, jet-setting Asian socialites."
"A deliciously fun romp from Capri to Manhattan and East Hampton. Kwan is in fine form, gleefully name-dropping luxury brands and socialites as he spins a heartfelt, satirical tale that observes the price of fame, fortune and following your heart.”
"True love will find a way, even among the status-obsessed and filthy rich... [With] irresistibly knowing humor and delightful central characters... While he’s engineering the timeless love story and continuing our postgraduate education in all the things money can buy, Kwan manages to take a few swipes against snobbery and racism. Nice. This is the only way you’re getting to Capri this year. Why resist?"
“Kwan follows up his Crazy Rich Asians trilogy with an intoxicating, breezy update of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View... Kwan exploits the Forster frame for clever references—including Merchant and Ivory—and provides amusing footnotes. Kwan also relishes describing lavish meals and haute couture clothing, as well as Isabel’s decadent wedding and Cecil’s imaginative, over-the-top proposal. There are moments both catty and witty... [A] delectable comedy of manners—the literary equivalent of white truffle and caviar pizza.”
Crazy Rich Asians creator Kwan returns with a novel inspired by E.M. Forster's A Room with a View, in which 19-year-old Lucie Churchill, daughter of a Chinese American mother and blue-blood New York father, travels to Capri for a wedding. The eye-poppingly opulent celebration lasts for days. Things heat up when Lucie meets George Zao and his ever-present mother, who hilariously begins many of her sentences with "hiyah." Lucie tries to ignore her attraction to George, but she keeps bumping into him, and they have a romance, which ends when members of the wedding party return home. Several years later, Lucie plans to marry WASPy, wealthy fiancé Cecil, who is mostly fixated on his Instagram likes, and finds her family irritating and boring. Kwan's usual delightful humor appears in his trademark footnotes, particularly those proclaiming everyone's pedigree. Touches such as Milk Duds served at a Hollywood movie screening are amusing as well. The situation changes abruptly when the Zaos move to New York and Lucie and George keep running into each other. As Lucie learns a few truths, she makes some important decisions. VERDICT This is an enjoyable book, especially for those who like reading about the lives of the privileged and for fans of the author. [See Prepub Alert, 3/11/20.]—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL
True love will find a way, even among the status-obsessed and filthy rich.
There are few authors who could pull off wealth porn in the current cultural moment—perhaps only one. Kwan, author of the insanely popular Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, again manages to enchant, though this is crazy and rich without the Asian locales, food, and other cultural details. While the locations of this book—the isle of Capri and the Hamptons—are certainly glamorous and full of rich people, they are no Singapore or Hong Kong. Kwan overcomes that with his irresistibly knowing humor and delightful central characters. Lucie Tang Churchill ("92nd St. Y Nursery School / Brearley / Brown"; the educational resume of every character is provided like this) is Chinese American, and her love interest, George Zao, is “a Chinese boy from Hong Kong who had spent a few years in Australia,” leaving him with an Aussie accent and a surfboard. They meet and become aware of their furious vibrational connection at an over-the-top wedding on Capri—but a complete disaster intervenes to keep them apart. Well, not a disaster disaster, more of a public relations disaster. It involves drones. Next thing we know, Lucie is engaged to a simply awful, nouveau riche, social media–obsessed white boy named Cecil Pike, who has somehow been pronounced by Esquire “The Most Desired Dude on the Planet.” A faithful Kwan-ite will see poor Cecil immediately for the plot device he is: “The Obstacle,” who drives a Meteor over Fountain Blue Bentley Mulsanne and wears bespoke Corthay “Cannes” suede loafers. While he’s engineering the timeless love story and continuing our postgraduate education in all the things money can buy, Kwan manages to take a few swipes against snobbery and racism. Nice.
This is the only way you’re getting to Capri this year. Why resist?