2018 Reviews · contemporary fiction · romance · Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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Welcome to a weekly post, Throwback Thursday. This weekly book review post is a way to share some old favourites, books that were published over a year ago and most importantly those books that have been languishing on the to be read pile for far too long!


Thwarted love, scheming snobs, obscene wealth and haute couture – it’s all here in crazy rich asians smalla fabulous bestseller and now a groundbreaking and lavish movie. An absolutely wicked treat!

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 Asiansis an insider’s look at the Asian jetset, a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money and between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese, and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love and gloriously, crazily rich.

Review:

In 2013, a debut writer by the name of Kevin Kwan released a book with a rather gaudy but intriguing title called, Crazy Rich Asians. Now, some five years after the book was released, a big screen version has hit movie theatres. I didn’t catch the first wave of the Crazy Rich Asians phenomenon, but a recent viewing of the film encouraged me to seek the book out for entertainment and interest value.

A satire and an indulgent romance tale, Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in a trilogy penned by Kevin Kwan. It takes an in-depth look into the immense wealth, lavish lifestyles, culture, family expectations and innuendo that swirls around the rich families of Asia. With a specific focus on the heir of one of Singapore’s most well regarded families, Nicholas Young, Kwan considers the problems that arise when a son of old money in Asia, brings his Chinese American professor girlfriend back home. The complications of this potential ill match in the marriage stakes is set against another grand high society wedding. The upcoming nuptials of Colin, a close friend of Nicholas Young, provides Kevin Kwan with the room to explore the jetting setting life of the elite  set of Singapore and surrounds. A story of wealth, love, family, honour, duty and culture, Crazy Rich Asians makes you stop and think for a moment what it would be like to live in this absurd world of affluence.

I was recently drawn to the film version of which the 2013 book Crazy Rich Asians was based on. I tend not to commit the sin of watching the film version before reading the book, but in this instance I am glad this occurred. Crazy Rich Asians was a luxurious comfort read that I was able to immerse myself in over two indulgent days. A mixture between comedy, drama and a family saga, Crazy Rich Asians affords author Kevin Kwan with the creative licence to cast a critical eye over the fantastically rich set of families in modern Asia.

It can feel a little overwhelming when you first open up Crazy Rich Asians. There is a very detailed and expansive list of three different family trees contained at the front of the book. However, Kwan eases your mind early on in the piece by focussing on Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young, a modern couple based in New York, who are very clearly in love. Complications arise when Nick fails to disclose to his long term girlfriend Rachel, just how wealthy and revered his family is. This all comes to a head when Nick asks Rachel to accompany him home to Singapore, as he takes on wedding duties, seeing his best school friend Colin get married in the wedding of the decade. Not only does Rachel, a young woman from a completely different background to Nick have to contend with this new found knowledge about his very privileged upbringing, she must also deal with his mother who is deeply opposed to their relationship. In addition, the glamorous set that surround Nick and his family can be quite callous, a Rachel soon learns.

Running alongside Nick and Rachel’s bumpy road to happiness is the demise of Astrid, Nick’s dear cousin’s marriage. From contrasting backgrounds, Astrid and her husband Michael battle his inferiority issues and a heartbreaking betrayal. This was handled well by Kwan and it helped to highlight that money cannot always buy you happiness; it can almost be a curse, as in Astrid’s case.

The book alternates points of view character wise, but be assured, it is easy to keep on top of them. By switching over points of view, we receive a comprehensive understanding of the incredible lifestyles of these ‘crazy rich Asians’. Kwan litters his book with plenty of examples of extreme wealth, from fashion choices to food banquets, impromptu getaways and lavish family celebrations.

The dialogue in Crazy Rich Asians comes across as deeply authentic. If you struggle to get your head around some of the area specific lingo and local colloquialisms, Kevin Kwan has included footnotes at the bottom of the pages of his book, the footnotes assist the reader in this department. I appreciated this extra touch very much.

I have had the privilege of visiting Singapore on a holiday a couple of times, but Crazy Rich Asians provided a whole new take on a country, as a well as culture I naively thought I had an understanding of. Kevin Kwan’s book puts a whole new spin on Singapore and its neighbours. Key places, the culture, history, racism and lifestyle practices of the Singaporean people came to light through the projected images Kwan presented in Crazy Rich Asians.

There is a nice modern fairytale feel to this novel that I appreciated very much. Rachel is a modest Cinderella and Nick the handsome prince. Nick’s mother Eleanor was the wicked mother figure of the tale and perhaps Peik Lin, Rachel’s college friend, is her fairy godmother. Either way you view it, Crazy Rich Asians delivered in the romance stakes and offered a little more by the fierce look into the lives of the rich and famous in Asia.

Crazy Rich Asians is one to add to your viewing and reading lists! The book and film version were both highly entertaining and come recommended.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan was published on 11th June 2013. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

Learn more about the author of Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan, here.

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