Imagine meeting a hot guy, and then he asks you to spend the summer with him in Singapore. Imagine you think he comes from one type of background, but in reality, it isn’t anything close to your wildest dreams.
This is the plot of Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. It is the Real Housewives meets billions of dollars. Billions!
It’s a love story woven through the tale of crazy, wickedly-rich families that have lives you can only dream of. There are the shallow, private-jet setting, couture fashion wearing billionaires, wives, ex-wives. There are social climbers, mouth-watering delicacies, and nosy relatives and gossips. The drama is fun and funny. And educational, you learn many swear words in various Asian dialects and languages.
I will admit that there are a LOT of characters in this book, some I can’t quite seem to make stick in my head, which means they are forgettable, however Kwan provides a handy-dandy family tree to help keep the main characters organized. I will also admit that I referred to the diagram multiple times when reading the book.
So while there are footnotes on the bottom of some pages (to help give context to various Singaporean, Malay or Thai sayings, or to give further description about the food that was going eaten), I didn’t find those distracting, like some reviewers of the book. I found it helpful, and most often funny.
It’s most certainly a cast of characters, including Nick and Rachel, the central characters who are visiting for the wedding of the year. I think the part I didn’t appreciate the most, although it was explained, was that Rachel didn’t know anything about Nick’s background, yet they have been dating for two years. If you love this girl, shouldn’t you at least try to provide some context about the exorbitant life you lived? But no, I suppose part of the fun was really learning how excessive a life Nick left behind, by living it through Rachel’s.
These main characters are likeable. And most of them certainly are crazy!
Some to take note of are Nick’s mom, Eleanor for example, is the definition of overbearing and over protective and well, she’s just simply over Rachel even only minutes after meeting her. Basically, she’s that mother of the boy you like that you don’t want to meet, because you know she’s going to make your life a living hell. And she isn’t even going to pretend that she isn’t!
I love to hate his cousin Edison, who is quite possibly my favourite character. Edison is the epitome of somebody who tries too hard. The extravagant and painful ways he vies for attention, dresses his family, and his over-the-top behaviour and reactions made me laugh every time.
And then there’s his Ah Ma (which is grandmother). While she is the most definitely the head of this family, it really doesn’t matter what nationality she is. She is old school, set in her ways and the pomp and circumstance that surround each decision, each tradition and each move the family does and doesn’t make, is not too far off from any matriarch.
Pick any movie, from any culture or background, and I guarantee you there is that one person everyone lives to impress; that everyone is afraid to cross and the one who is the centre of the family. That’s Nick’s Ah Ma.
While this book is quite long, I did enjoy reading it. And I was disappointed when it was over.
I liked the excessive, exaggerated and exuberant way these people try to live a humble life, if it could even be considered humble to avoid being put on a top 10 list of the wealthiest people in all of Asia.
I like the Mean Girls way it wipes the floor with the richest Real Housewives. It’s ridiculous and unbelievable, but that’s part of the charm.
I also enjoyed the author’s description of food, architecture, places, fashion and the jewels.
This book is decadent, and like a sweet dessert it left a smile on my face and left me wanting more.
P.S. In case you didn’t hear, they have made this into a motion picture being released in August. And it is the first major motion picture featuring a predominately all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club, which means it’s been 25 years since that’s happened. I watched the trailer and I think they got the casting right. Let’s hope the movie lives up to the book!