Doubleday | 30 June 2020 | 336 pgs
Kevin Kwan's phenomenal novel, Crazy Rich Asians, takes the readers to tropical Singapore and tells a love story through an array of local culture, the mindset and the behaviorism of the rich with a fun and dramatic prose. Sex and Vanity has a similar vibe as CRA in terms of the prose (minus the Singlish, of course) and is a homage to E.M. Forster's A Room with a View (I haven't read this so I couldn't compare).
Lucie Tang Churchill, our heroine, is invited to a wedding reception in Capri, Italy, together with her family. Accompanied by her cousin, Charlotte, they're supposed to check into a hotel room that has a scenic sea view but are dismayed to find it's already been occupied by another two guests. Rosemary Zao gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with them, but Charlotte isn't impressed with her exaggerated and over-the-top enthusiasm and thinks they're of two different class. Lucie, on the other hand, is intrigued by George Zao's (Rosemary's son) quiet temperament although she finds him a bit eccentric. And as fate would have it, it turns out that the Zaos are attending the same wedding reception, too.
In spite of Lucie's denial towards her attraction towards George and Charlotte's disapproval, Lucie couldn't keep her eyes away from him and Charlotte would tease her about her mixed blood heritage (Lucie's mother is a Chinese) that it's no surprise that George (Chinese-Australian) would attract her. But Lucie, on the other hand, finds her mixed blood heritage more of a hassle and confusion since she doesn't feel a strong sense of belonging from both sides of the family.
Lucie and George eventually let their feelings and emotions speak for themselves, but then an embarrassing situation breaks them apart. After this begins the second part of the story which is five years later after that incident, and the reader will soon learn that Lucie has a new fiancé and she's going to cross path with George once again; but this time around there're more deceits and implications as they involve not only her family and fiancé, but also the co-op board of her prestigious apartment building (they're hilarious at some point).
While Crazy Rich Asians and this book have the element of the rich and the privileged, what set them apart is the setting, the colourful culture of two different continents (Asian and Europe) and of course, not to mention the characterisations which I feel, remains the highlight of Kwan's books. I enjoyed reading about the local culture of CRA, but this book enables me more than a glimpse of the beautiful Capri and the extravagant food and fashion so it was both an entertaining and an "eye-opening" experience to me. While the love story was so-so and I wished there're more developments between Lucie and George (they've chemistry but lacks interactions), overall this still makes a decent read if you're in the mood for something light and fluffy.
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