VERY SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD
Lucie Churchill is in Capri for her cousin’s wedding when she meets George Zao. He is everything she dislikes in a man. Good looking, wealthy, and Chinese. When they have an instant of passion that gets caught on film she is awash in embarrassment and flee’s the scene, only to run into him in the Hampton’s five years later when she’s engaged to someone else.
Kevin Kwan is pretty famous for his over the top, ripe with excess, and really original Crazy Rich Asians. While I didn’t read the book, I did see the movie so I understand the flavor of his intent. Similar to what Candace Bushnell did for WASP’s in Sex and the City, Kevin Kwan does for Asians in the Crazy Rich Asians series. In this novel, Sex and Vanity, you have all of the above, but there’s also an underlining story that is really quite serious. Lucie is embarrassed by being half Chinese. Her father’s side of the family is all WASP, uber wealthy, and despite their good intentions and loving Lucie, racist. Lucie has been cognizant of that fact her entire life and has worked really hard to earn their praise by scrubbing everything asian from her vernacular. Unfortunately, she can’t help the way she looks, despite her beauty. So, when she meets George, and can’t look away, she’s ashamed.
George, too is part Chinese. I think one quarter? His mother is over the top in her excess and Lucie finds her appalling, despite liking her at the same time. So five years later, when George, his mother, and Lucie cross paths again, I’m surprised to find her engaged to someone who is just like what she finds most appalling. It’s no wonder George is a fascination for her, as he is all things calm and reasonable when there’s so little of that in her own life.
This novel is a bit of fun, just like Kevin Kwan’s other novels, but reading Lucie’s angst, pain, and shame over being part asian was really hard to read. Granted, I am a middle aged white woman who can’t put myself in her shoes, but I can feel the feelings the author has intended for me, and I felt myself to be one conflicted mess. Poor Lucie! The cast of characters were displayed as direct contrasts to all of the feelings Lucie had about herself. It was interesting to see those parallels and watch how Lucie unwound herself from those doubts and started living for herself.
Here’s a bit of a spoiler so STOP reading now if you plan to check out this book.
If I could change one thing about this novel, it would be that Lucie would’ve found herself a little sooner. That the book didn’t end with a series of letters that told her story instead of reading through those chapters from Lucie’s POV. I feel like I should’ve been rewarded with a couple of chapter’s of George and Lucie’s romance after having lived through the horror of she and Cecil’s. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a copy of this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
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