Crazy Rich Asians: Review
I am over the moon about this book! I've been recommending it to all of my friends, and even my dad. Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan, popped up on my radar several years while I was interning at the Asia Society, and for whatever reason, I was wary of reading something described as "outrageously funny." Seems overconfident, right? WRONG! This book lived up to all of my expectations, and then some!
Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season. When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should--and should not--marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.
I received an ARC of the third book in the series, Rich People Problems, which comes out on May 23rd, and took that as my cue to get started with these books! First of all, how gorgeous are these covers? They're bold, but understated. And one thing that you'll realize as you read the books, is that you have no real clue who the woman (or women) on these covers is!
I've been describing Crazy Rich Asians as a mashup of Desperate Housewives, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and those crazy Cantonese dramas my parents used to watch. There is an unmatched level of opulence and extravagance in this book that makes my head spin, but I gobbled it all up greedily. It's like how I devoured the fashion in Devil Wears Prada, even though I'd never be able to afford those clothes, nor wear them. This book is just so indulgent with its, well literally, richness.
At the same time though, there's this undercurrent of family, and its importance. Family lineage is a major plot point in Crazy Rich Asians, and there's a family tree in the beginning of the book to help you out if you get lost in the Young's and Shang's and Leong's. It can be tricky to remember all of these Chinese names! There are also casual Chinese phrases scattered throughout the book (with translations, of course), that I found so delightful, as someone who can speak Cantonese and Mandarin. These are really colloquial phrases that I know pretty intimately, and flowed very easily for a "Chinglish" speaker like myself. There are also intricately detailed descriptions of various places in Singapore, Hong Kong, and China, and I was so tickled to feel like I was getting an inside scoop on these luxurious, exclusive spots.
Kevin Kwan's writing style is amazing, as well. He doesn't allow the material excess of brand names, haute couture boutiques, luxury sports cars, and glorious mansions overshadow the ease of his prose. His writing, in its purest form, is simple and easy. He satirizes these rich Singaporeans, their conflicting values and traditions, and how the Western hemisphere is viewed. Even though I'm not close with my extended family in Asia, I can still appreciate how authentic (ironic, for a book about billionaires) Crazy Rich Asians is.
I can't wait for the movie to come out, especially with announcements that Constance Wu and Ken Jeong will be in it! It's a great opportunity to showcase Asian actors and express a side to East Asia that Wester audiences might not be familiar with!
I rate Crazy Rich Asians 5/5 stars!