Who knew that being in the leisure class required so much work?
Y. Euny Hong's Kept is a brilliant, wickedly funny tale that examines sexuality, class, and family ties among the bright young things of Manhattan.
Judith Lee, an entitled descendant of the Korean royal family, has grown quite accustomed to the privileges of the aristocracy. Unfortunately for her, royal descent does not equal money. Her family lost their fortune long ago, and when her parents add insult to injury by cutting off her allowance upon her graduation from Yale, Jude (as she is known) learns the hard way that her fancy upbringing has left her unprepared to deal with her monstrous debts. As she hobnobs in New York with her clever, wellborn friends, she is introduced to Madame Tartakov, a charismatic Russian émigré, who has the solution for Jude's financial woes. The catch: Jude must put in two years at "Tartakov's Translation Services" -- a front organization for the flock of high society girls, collected from all over the world, who now work as Manhattan's most coveted courtesans.
Jude's taste of the good life convinces her that she's right at home in Madame Tartakov's luxurious Upper East Side townhouse. She has finally found a job that uses the unique skills of a blue blood, and she is quite taken by the fiery classical violinist who pays for her "companionship" -- that is, until she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Joshua Spinoza, a penniless philosophy student who has a stutter and poor taste in wine, and who leaves the opera at intermission because he thinks it is over.
Dark forces begin to test Jude's already limited moral fiber when she discovers not only that she is falling in love outside her clientele, but that an illegitimate relative is harboring a grotesque secret and something catastrophic is hidden in the family archives.
Ultimately, Jude is forced to take a good, long look in her warped antique Tiffany mirror. Is being born into a world of privilege a gift? Can bad things really happen to blue bloods? And perhaps more startlingly: are courtesans nothing more than prostitutes in Prada?
Revelatory and voyeuristic, sexy and sophisticated, Kept is the thoroughly accomplished debut of a gifted newcomer who writes like a present-day Jane Austen.
Y. Euny Hong was the first-ever television columnist for the U.S. edition of the Financial Times. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Europe, the International Herald Tribune, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and the Forward, among other periodicals. She studied philosophy at Yale University and was recently awarded a Fulbright Beginning Professional Journalism Award.
"An impressively deft debut...The writing is immaculate...Hong has crafted a delightfully erudite and justifiably literary novel...It is as smart and clever as it is deliciously entertaining." -- Christine Thomas, Chicago Tribune
"Rich, insightful, and wildly entertaining. A wonderfully assured debut." -- Helen Walsh, author of Brass
"You'll be laughing from cover to cover." -- Halley Bondy, New York Daily News
"A high-spirited, witty and entertaining tale with an unusually audacious heroine and a dazzlingly global frame of reference." -- Margaret Drabble, author of The Seven Sisters and The Sea Lady
"Not for nothing does Hong begin the book with a quote from Thackeray; this is Vanity Fair's close cousin." -- Kirkus Reviews
"We wouldn't want to miss Jude's tantrums...witty disdain leads the way." -- Elinor Lipman, The Washington Post Book World
"Clever, smart, and oh so terribly funny, Kept is perfect for the beach tote or for sneaking into your graduate seminar. This is a volume to treasure." -- Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook