Friday, August 2, 2013

Crazy Rich Asians: A Novel by Kevin Kwan

The blurb:
Crazy Rich Asians  is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occur 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; Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about whom 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 jet set - 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.

The rich really are different from the rest of us.  We heard that from Great Gatsby and we see it in Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians.

The book centers on three families so wealthy that their existence and wealth is kept from the society pages.  We see the old guard of Asian wealth as it clashes with the flashy new multimillionaires and billionaires of the last few decades.  The clothes, jewels, real estate, private jets, impulse purchases, etc. sort of reminded me of the families that reigned during America's Gilded Age.  We certainly see that how the wealthy Chinese suffer prejudice when traveling abroad  and the book has some delightful moments when the more obnoxious snobs are taught lessons in humility.    The very first scene in the book had me hooked.

When Nicholas Young, one of Singapore's wealthiest and most eligible bachelors, invites his girl friend Rachel Chu to travel to Singapore with him to meet his friends and family,  he doesn't think to prepare her for what's ahead.  Nicholas doesn't act particularly rich, extravagant or flashy in New York, so Rachel expects to meet a regular Singaporean family.    Rachel certainly doesn't expect the hostility, drama, and craziness that converge when society matrons and their eligible daughters learn that one of Asia's most eligible bachelors is in love with an American Born Chinese.  The mean society girls that we encounter in Crazy Rich Asians are particularly nauseating and the society gossip gets to be a little too much - but perhaps this is what Kevin Kwan was going for.

I wasn't that drawn to Rachel Chu or Nicholas Young, but I did find Nicholas's glamorous heiress cousin Astrid to be an interesting and sympathetic character.  Astrid is Singapore's It Girl with unparalleled bloodlines and one of the largest fortunes in Asia but she's married a young tech entrepreneur and has been trying to live within her husband's means.  She's making do in a small apartment with a small staff,  hiding her Parisian purchases, and is content with her life until she learns that her husband might be having an affair.  This rocks Astrid's world and transforms her from a caricature to a real person.  My favorite parts of the book were when Kevin Kwan revealed the young Astrid and her chance meeting and escape with her old boyfriend.

ISBN-10: 0385536976 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Doubleday (June 11, 2013), 416 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore.  He currently lives in Manhattan.  Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel.  Find out more about him at

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