Hardcover, 403 pagesPublished June 11th 2013 by Doubleday (first published 2013)
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.
With Crazy Rich Asians hitting the big screens in a few short weeks, many readers have decided to re-read this 2013 release – or, as in my case, have finally decided to read it. This, of course, has also been reflected not only in social media trends but on the New York Times bestseller list where Kevin Kwan’s debut novel has again easily nabbed a spot, despite having been originally released five years ago. I, myself, fell casualty to an impulse all book lovers are prone to: buying a book because of its cover! I bought a copy of Crazy Rich Asians when it was first released because the sparkly gold cover drew my eye – and my wallet, apparently – like a magpie to all that glitters. So, when I put out the poll last month for which book I should read next, I was glad that this one won (by a LANDSLIDE, mind you) because I already had a shiny copy with an in-tact spine on my shelves ready to read!
Crazy Rich Asians is exactly what you’d expect with such a loud and gaudy title and the sparkly cover to match. The gist of the novel is that the ultra hunky Nicholas Young falls in love with Rachel Chu and decides to bring her to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding of the century event to introduce her to his folks…and all of the lavishness that comes with it. Rachel, having never known her beau was FILTHY RICH is shocked by what she finds—and the viciousness of his family and friends—toward her when she arrives. A series of comical events ensues over this few weeks, which we, the readers, are privy to.
The first thing you’ll notice, from page one, is that Crazy Rich Asians is ALL THE WAY OVER THE TOP as if Kwan just threw every lavish thing he could think of in there, including the deluxe, chef-grade kitchen sink! But, isn’t that what we picked this novel up for – a fun, feisty read that can be enjoyed simply for the setting and hilarity of it. This book was soaked in Asian culture, which was an added bonus I absolutely loved—from the Hokkien and Mandarin slang littered throughout the pages (thanks, Kwan, for the footnotes!) to the description of native dishes and cultural values. The scale of wealth, customs and rituals Kwan shows us is larger than life in all the most uproarious ways.
Of course, let’s be honest here: a novel like this is bound to be a bit over-embellished, like biting into a too-sweet Godiva chocolate bar, and that it was. But I enjoyed that bit of decadence; in that way, this book really lived up to its name – and the hype!
I will say that there were WAY too many POVs and unnecessary story lines here, which certainly contributed to the extravagant and superfluous page count. At times, pages upon pages were spent just describing the luxuriousness of these characters’ surroundings. In a single paragraph you’ll find references like: Venus de Milo, Battenberg lace tablecloth, and Louis Quatorze chairs in royal blue brocade. (And I found that by flipping to any random page lol.) Yet, to go along with this over-the-top style of writing—that we’ve all come to love enough to want to go see the film about it—the dialogue within these pages was always light and realistic, outrageous and totally hilarious. Yes, the ending was sopped in melodrama, like a Taiwanese soap opera, and rushed, as if Kwan suddenly realized he was over or nearing the 400-page mark for this novel and suddenly decided to STOP and continue on with it in book two. BUT, in the end, Crazy Rich Asians delivered all that it promised: the humor and the fun along with the crazy, the rich and the Asians. And for that, I serve up on a Harry Winston platter 4 sparkly, shiny, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera-covered stars! ****
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Kevin Kwan is the author of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the international bestseller now being adapted as a major motion picture. The sequel, “China Rich Girlfriend,” will be released on June 16, 2015. Born and raised in Singapore, Kwan has called Manhattan home for the past two decades but still craves pineapple tarts and a decent plate of Hokkien mee.
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