Friday, 14 September 2018

Crazy Rich Asians -Kevin Kwan

Published: 2014

Publisher: Anchor

Pages: 527


I picked up Crazy Rich Asians after seeing the trailer and feeling intrigued. It struck me as kind of Singaporean Gossip Girl, and I loved GG so I was keen to dive right in.

I’ll get my pet peeves out of the way at the beginning because it’s all praise after this. Sometimes this book reads like Vogue, there are constant descriptions of what the characters wear and who it was designed by. And I just don’t care. I understand that Kwan was using it to illustrate how fashion is used to distinguish the elite and how their obsession with wealth manifests itself in their obsession with clothing, but he could have dialed it down and still got his point across. Also I felt like there might have been too many characters, introduced extremely briefly, all kind of similar to each other (there are about 500 aunts and I couldn’t keep them straight)

Other than that I really liked this novel. Kwan has done such a good job of creating some really realistic and surprisingly relatable characters. I don’t know anyone as rich as the characters in this book, but I know some fairly rich ones who are pretty intolerable so I can only imagine what people who are set to inherit a couple hundred mil are like. But not all of the Singaporean Chinese are terrible people, obviously, some of them handle their extreme wealth with grace and subtlety.

Kwan explores the way that wealth affects these people and their relationships. Nick, Eddie and Astrid are three cousins, almost as rich as either, who grew up together and turned out very differently. Nick is well adjusted, has a really healthy relationship with his girlfriend, our protagonist, Rachel (apart from lying by omission about his horrifically rich family). Astrid, a socialite and It girl, is married to the man she loves but her wealth but considerable strain on their relationship. Eddie is obsessed with his wealth, how much of it he has, how he can show it off and why his parents won’t, and ends up at odds with his relatively down to earth wife, Fiona.

Crazy Rich Asians is very interesting class study about how people with this extreme wealth behave and a fascinating insight into the strata of Asian society, something I knew nothing about. I found it intriguing that the families with the most wealth often go to great lengths to hide it, which seems extremely at odds with the behavior of their peers. (See:every rich person since the beginning of time). But much like the British landed gentry, a class system I’m much more familiar with, they are extremely snobby and condescending towards other social groups (especially the mainland Chinese and anyone with ‘new money’). Their social circle is rife with ‘inbreeding’, as it’s considered improper to marry outside of the Singaporean Chinese class. After all, the money must be kept in the family.

Crazy Rich Asians gives a unique perspective on Asian society that is never represented in the media and it’s characters defy most if not all of the stereotypes that Asian people are often saddled with in the media.

Four Stars ****

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