Skip to Content

Book Review: Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Want to know whether to read Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan? Well, here’s my full Sex and Vanity review to help you decide!

Sex and Vanity Kevin Kwan Book

Sex and Vanity Book Summary

When Lucie Tang Churchill meets George Zao at a lavish wedding in Capri, she can’t stand him. She can’t stand that he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so she can have a sea view, that he knows more about the island than she does, and worst of all, that he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins.

What would her Mayflower-descended, Wall Street-wealthy family think of him? But years later, when Lucie is weekending with her fiancé in East Hampton, George unexpectedly appears and Lucie must decide – does she follow her head or her heart?

A gloriously decadent homage to A Room with a ViewSex and Vanity is a glittering modern love story and a brilliantly funny comedy of manners set between two cultures.

Kevin Kwan Sex and Vanity Book Review

Sex and Vanity Book Review

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan is a modern retelling of EM Forster’s A Room With A View. Set between Capri and New York, it follows the story of Lucie Churchill, a half Asian, half American young girl who attends the wedding of her friend on the island of Capri.

There, she meets George Zao, a boy she somehow ends up falling for despite initially hating everything about him. They are caught in a compromising situation and part ways abruptly, only to meet again several years later in New York.

Lucie is now engaged to the most eligible bachelor in the city but something still draws her to George.

This description of this book makes it sound like a fun romance novel, but the central duo, Lucie and George, actually don’t spend a great deal of time together in this book.

This is much more of a comedy and social satire than it is a romance, but it is a fun and enjoyable read nonetheless.

Kevin Kwan’s observations on the white and Asian elite that reside in New York’s most exclusive apartment blocks are peppered with asterisks explaining the significance of certain schools, events, public figures and more. He certainly writes like someone who understands this world very well.

Like Crazy Rich Asians, the plot is positively ridiculous and the characters are absurd. You can help but snigger at some of the OTT descriptions of characters that almost certainly do exist in these circles.

I think this book is made all the more absurd by the fact it is based on an old classic and certain events had to be forcibly adapted for the modern world.

I definitely found some parts towards the end were even more implausible than I’d expect from a novel like this but I suppose it’s all part of the fun and drama.

I was surprised to find some discussion about racism in this book, with so many instances that I, as a half Asian, half English woman, can certainly see happening in real life.

My only criticism of these parts is that nothing really came of them – no one ever spoke out against the figures who made these comments or pointed out that their words were not ok.

But perhaps in this world of false smiles and pretences, silence is the most likely response.

All in all, I enjoyed Sex and Vanity but feel I was slightly missold on the type of story it would be. It is not quite as good as Crazy Rich Asians but certainly has similar themes, characters and absurd antics. If you are a fan of Kevin Kwan then this would make a great summer beach read.

Buy Sex and Vanity online now

Amazon | Book Depository | Bookshop.org US | Bookshop.org UK | Waterstones | Blackwells | Wordery

If you liked this post, check out these:
Books Like Crazy Rich Asians

The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang
Life of a Banana by PP Wong
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
13 Best Beach Reads of All Time

Love this post? Pin it for later!

Kevin Kwan Sex and Vanity Book Review