Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – Book Review (Singaporean-Chinese Contemporary)

Crazy Rich AsiansCrazy Rich Asians is an #OwnVoices Singaporean-Chinese adult contemporary novel—the first in a trilogy of the same name—about a girl named Rachel Chu who feels ecstatic when her seemingly average boyfriend, Nick Young, invites her to spend the summer with him and his family in Singapore. However, she never expected that he would turn out to be what is essentially Singaporean royalty, and as such an heir to a crazy, filthy rich fortune.

This book was a tremendously wicked and wild romp through some of the world’s wealthiest lifestyles, including sensational drama that is mixed with equal parts culture, faith, and scandalous boat-loads of judgement. I almost didn’t pick up Crazy Rich Asians due to all of the hype surrounding it, however, the film was something that intrigued me immensely, and that curiosity is what drove me towards the book first. While it was quite a bit of fun to read, the experience quickly fades into tedium and immaturity to a level that left me feeling less than impressed.

The good traits lie in the writing style, which is lush with detailed accounts of what it is like to exist in such a tanzanite-encrusted world. The gargantuan, palatial homes and the spontaneous bouts of stress shopping that result in dropping millions of dollars on a whim are just a few examples. In a way, it felt like I was being transported to a fantastical land that could only exist in fiction. No matter how implausible it felt to me, I know that there are people in the world who live in such luxury.

With these extreme ways of existing, come a plethora of social and cultural customs as well. The etiquette of the rich and famous are just as alien as their homes and spending habits. This is the second aspect of the book that I found to be most-interesting. As we learn about Nick’s childhood home and his family and friends, we also see that regardless of the amount of money everyone has, no one is truly happy. Most of their day-to-day interactions are laced with facades of marital bliss or supreme self-confidence. The higher you climb on the mountain of gold and diamonds, the more slippery and unassured you become. The critique on the depression, insecurities, and underlying feelings of wholehearted inadequacy were utterly delicious and intellectually stimulating to me.

I’m a person who is barely able to make end’s meet. I don’t feel any shame in admitting that. Living in the US, especially in California, with its current capitalist-obsessed bubble is extremely challenging for normal-waged folks, or even poor people. Oft times I wonder what it would be like to not worry about debt or filling my fridge or the cat bowls. A luxury item for me is being able to splurge on IBC Root Beer or being able to buy a package of cookies. The concept of never struggling for money is so beyond my brain’s processing ability.

crazy rich asians 2Being poor allows you to look at money and how money affects the world from a very special point-of-view. Crazy Rich Asians is an excellent depiction of how people with the power to change the world don’t do it because they have their heads so far up their arse you can see their face when they yawn. The rest of the world doesn’t mean anything to them at all. There are instances in the story where people assume because Rachel isn’t as well-off as them that’s she’s a gold-digger (it’s a big theme here), yet the paradox lies in the way that marriage alliances are formed between This Big Name Family and That Big Name Family; like pieces on a chess board where the winner gets the most moolah. The parallels of all the complaints that the lavishly, ludicrous individuals have against the less-than person was superb; irony at its absolute finest.

Even with all the elements that I relished in, after awhile the story starts to feel sluggish and tedious. The over-the-top descriptions of the over-the-top events and places felt like they’d never end. The drama between the women were very Gossip Girl-esque but with far less depth and far more air. The idea that women could behave this way while being in their 30s and 40s (and beyond even) felt completely outrageous. Logically, I know it happens. I’ve seen it with some of my more affluent friend circles. Nevertheless, it gets unbearably annoying and maddening. Then when we get closer to the climax, everything bombards its way onwards, disrupting the pace up to that point.

I will admit that some of my feelings with it being slow and sloggy can be blamed on the week-long break I took from reading (it started shortly after I started this book) for personal reasons. That very well may have disrupted my reading mojo and tossed me off course with my mood in terms of genre. However, I still believe that I would have struggled with the tedium of the crazy rich attributes eventually.

In general, if you are in search of a story that does not take itself seriously and something that you can allow yourself to sink into and get lost with, Crazy Rich Asians may be the perfect story for you, more so if you don’t mind the gradual progression of plots and events. But if you are similar to me and would like those things in a more digestible manner, the film may be the better option for you! I haven’t seen it yet but will be picking it up either tonight or tomorrow. Either way, it’s a good romp through ridiculously rich antics.

3.5 diamond earrings outta 5!

Please let me know in the comments if you’d like me to review the film! Thank you.

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4 thoughts on “Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – Book Review (Singaporean-Chinese Contemporary)

  1. Having now seen the film and read the book (a doubly rare occurrence for me, especially these days where I’m not reading as much non-manga stuff as I used to), I feel like I prefer the latter. The former felt more like an abridged version a bit too much…probably because I’m a sucker for snarky translator notes that add to the reading experience (like those found in Dark Horse’s Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service releases), plus I tend to side with the thing I experience first.

    Back to the book though: I quite liked it. Aside from the notes (I can tell you the bits in Cantonese are accurate with the right pronounciation), it was fun to see basically Mean Girls but in a way I could better relate to it. I feel like the escapism element, through it being so unbelievable and yet potentially something that could occur somewhere, was a big chunk of what compelled me to keep reading. My only real gripe, if I had one, is that the text in the copy I had was kinda small (especially with the family tree and notes) which probably contributed to that slogging feeling you were getting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The text was super small! You’re probably right about that being a big contributor that sloggy feeling.

      I did watch the film last night, and it’s definitely a more abridged version. While there were certain things I liked about the film, I much preferred the book after all. I feel like the drama and the scandals had more depth and more cultural significance to them than the film, which were the parts I adored in the novel.

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  2. Having seen the movie, and not read the book. I can say the movie was hilarious, and if it is only an abridged version, I’d like to check out the book as well. You hit the nail on the head as far as those of us who aren’t well off seeing this world as outrageous an unbelievable, I wish I had 1 million dollars to just buy some random jewelry! Thank you for your review and thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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