Author: Kevin Kwan
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: June 11, 2013
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible
A hilarious and heartwarming New York Times bestselling novel—now a major motion picture! “This 48-karat beach read is crazy fun.” —Entertainment Weekly
When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.
Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
A ritzy, glitzy book full of outrageous descriptions of the ultra glamorous lives of the rich in Singapore, Crazy Rich Asians is SO MUCH FUN.
There are definitely fish-out-of-water vibes when outsider and New York professor Rachel Chu decides to come to Asia for a summer holiday with her two-year boyfriend Nicholas Young. Unbeknownst to her, Nick is actually one of the richest men in Asia and she’s walking into a lion’s den of ladies who want to marry him.
The Rachel-Nick part of the story is, indeed, the main plot line, but it’s a loose one as we flip between several viewpoints. Nick’s relatives and the rest of Singapore’s elite are all plotting, gossiping, and getting ready to attend the upcoming wedding of Nick’s best friend, Colin Khoo – basically Singapore’s version of a royal wedding.
The viewpoints include that of Eleanor, Nick’s tiger mom, as she learns about Rachel’s existence and her “unacceptable” family ties; Edison, Nick’s Hong Kong cousin who’s obsessed with appearances, and Rachel’s friend Peik Lin, who is also extremely wealthy, but is amazed to find out that there’s an even richer class of Asians she didn’t know about.
My favorite of the other viewpoints and storylines, though, is that of Nick’s cousin, the uber chic Astrid Leong. We follow Astrid as she goes from Paris to Singapore and discovers a devastating secret about her husband.
What I liked about this book was not only the magnificent descriptions and the brilliantly exacting English-Asian dialogue (seriously, everyone I know in Asia talks like Kwan’s characters, in half dialects mixed), but also the over-the-top satire of an Asian society that is rarely seen in movies and books in Western culture. There’s definitely a feeling in North America that Chinese people are the poor immigrants. Here we see just the opposite – which is both validating and horrifying at the same time.
Author Kevin Kwan’s tone is never vilifying, though. He pokes fun at the ladies who lunch in this society, the schemers and plotters, the old matriarchs who run Nick’s family, but it’s done with a great sense of respect.
If I have qualms about this book, they are that Nick is almost too good to be true. A kind, rich history prof who stands to inherit a giant fortune but genuinely doesn’t care about it and isn’t snobby? And one who really loves his middle-class girlfriend and treats her like a princess? Kwan’s characterization of Nick makes this book into a bit of a fairy tale, especially given that Rachel is pretty naive about what she’s stepping into. It’s just too simple a story – and the twists that it takes feel far too late in the book to be authentic.
Luckily, Kwan saves the book with Astrid’s story. That’s where I saw real complexity and a plot line that felt real and true. Despite her extreme wealth, Astrid’s marriage and the decisions she makes about it feel so honest to the culture of saving face and suffering-through that I’ve seen in Asia. There’s depth there, and her story is one of the only ones that doesn’t get fully resolved by the end of the book, so I’m looking forward to continuing Astrid’s story in Kwan’s sequels, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems.
All the Fashion: I mean, everyone is label-obsessed in this book, but Astrid’s outfits are described in such amazing and accurate ways, I just wanted to LIVE in her closet.
The Final Word:
I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians a ton and felt like the dialogue and behaviours of the characters – especially the Hong Kong dwellers – were very much in line with my own experiences of Asian society. Yes, it’s a send-up, but it’s one with a lot of truth and heart. It’s not going to win any literary awards, but that’s not the point of Crazy Rich Asians. If you’re looking for a really fun page-turner with diversity and escapism, this is totally your book. A great beach read. I can’t wait for the movie!
CRAZY RICH ASIANS is out in bookstores now – and the movie is out this week! Have you read it? Did you love it like I did? Will you be watching the movie (heck yes!)? What other books with great Asian representation have you read? Let me know in the comments!
What a wonderful review, Tiff! I am so excited to see this movie. I’ve been to Singapore twice, and I had no idea what to expect, how to function. I loved it! I remember I had quite a magically surreal spa experience the second time. I can’t wait to see all those clothes. I’m really happy to hear that no one is vilified. I think that’s what initially kept me away from this book, even though I love romance novels, was that I assumed that it would be a bunch of girl on girl hatred. I’m thrilled to see so many different kinds of women represented, different ages, different places in life. I’m excited to get an insight into a world of luxury. Thank you for the recommendation!
Yes yes YES! I love this book so much and I finally finished the 2nd book after years of putting it off, and let me tell you, it’s even more crazier than this one! Astrid is my favorite point of view too, both Rachel and Nick felt too nice as a human being to be true, but Astrid felt really authentic 😀