Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Author: Kevin Kwan
Format: Hardcover, 408 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: June 11, 2013
Summary from publisher:
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.
Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is a debut novel filled with plethoric proportions that crack open the secret microcosm of the ostentatious privilege and snobbish elitism which belongs to and is bred exclusively for the Asian and pedigreed superrich.
The main character, American-born, young Chinese woman, Rachel Chu, with little to her name except a doctorate and a mistaken identity of belonging to a lower-class, wealthy family who owns Taipei Plastics due to the run of gossiping tongues and a shared last name is unaware of the significance of her boyfriend, Nicholas Young’s, family history, lineage, and excessive financial power.
In her humble naiveté, she agrees to accompany Nicholas on a trip to Singapore, only to be thrown into the cruelty of voracious gossip, stealth backstabbing, and seething envy by his high-minded, vicious relatives and competitive rivals.
While the writing and the plot is simple, with thick and often detailed footnotes meant to add humour to the book, it’s the characters themselves who shine in the literal limelight of their pampered and often gargantuan egos.
Money can do that—as well as open doors of exclusivity meant for those with massive fortunes, in particular, the three most powerful clans in Asia: the Youngs, the Shangs, and the T’Siens.
This book describes an audacious decadence, one filled with private planes, palatial properties, couture clothing, and a decorum adhered to and expected from the politics of the severely wealthy, and the sweet bloodlines of Asian royalty.
There are, however, a few characters with enough integrity and humility that decide to be grounded and “easier”-going than their stuck-up counterparts:
Nicholas Young, while the expected heir to his grandmother’s massive fortune, chooses a more independent and low maintenance life in America with a like-minded woman, who, while she shares common interests with him, remains an outsider to his privileged financial and social class.
Astrid Leong, cousin to Nicholas, and idolized for not only her grand net worth, but her complete accessibility and divine taste in couture clothing and jewellery, remains a non-superficial woman who has had to learn to cope and grace herself in playing the role she was born into.
Then, of course, there are the contemptuous characters whose skewed views of self-importance bloats them into a pompous stratosphere that blinds them to their superficiality, while also making them ridiculously hilarious because of their audacity:
Elenor Sung-Young, Nicholas’ over-protective, controlling mother who goes as far as to hire a private detective to scrutinize his American-born Chinese girlfriend.
Edison Cheng, who’s financial insecurity compels him to brashly control and coordinate his wife’ and children’s greeting, mannerisms, and brand-named clothing, as well as his insecure and desperate effort to please those in positions of financial power.
The book reads as an Asian soap opera of the opulent rich, with at its heart (and yes, it is more money), a love story between a young couple that battles against the expectations threaded in their birthright and the modernity and ease of free love.
While it brags a fantastical extravagance in the story; its characters, especially its snobbish breed, compels the reader to new depths of contempt, which may dilute his or her original jealousy of their excessive wealth.
Succinctly said? It’s a perfect beach read for the summer, both glittery as its gold-foiled front cover, and its story literally true to its title—the Asians in it are superbly rich and absolutely crazy!
Characters: 3 stars
Pacing: 3 stars
Cover Design: 2 stars
Plot: 2.5 stars
A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of Doubleday Canada for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.
About the Author:
Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore. He currently lives in Manhattan. Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel.
– From Random House of Canada website.
If you were as rich as one of the Asian families in “Crazy Rich Asians,” what would be the first thing you would do with your money?
Make a list of all the things you would buy or do if you were as wealthy as the characters in this book. What does your list look like?