Crazy Rich Asians: A Crazy Fun Beach Read!

I recently read a book that I enjoyed so much that I knew I had to blog about it here – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. If you are looking for a fun, summer read – this is it! If you take this book to the beach with you this upcoming holiday, you may not even end up going in the water. It is that good.

I kept seeing and hearing about this book: it was displayed in the hot reads section of my local Barnes & Nobles, and I later heard about it on one of my favorite podcasts, NPR’s It’s Been a Minute. During the podcast, I learned that Crazy Rich Asians was going to become a movie with an all-Asian cast. The host was interviewing Jimmy Yang, a comedian and actor who was going to play an infamous character in the book – the quintessential rich frat kid Bernard Tai. I made a decision to pick it up at my library, and I’m so happy that I did.

Crazy Rich Asians follows the story of two professors at New York University – Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nick Young. Nick invites Rachel to visit his family in Singapore over the summer as well as attend the wedding of his best friend, Colin Khoo. Rachel says yes, but unbeknownst to her, Nick’s family is one of the richest on the island of Singapore, and the elders in his family are none too pleased with Rachel’s lack of status and money…

The book was an addictive page-turner! Even when I wasn’t reading it, I found myself thinking about the characters, and imagining the sumptuous settings that they lived in –

The “living room,” as Nick so modestly called it, was a gallery that ran along the entire northern end of the house, with Art Deco divans, wicker club chairs, and ottomans casually grouped into intimate seating areas. A row of tall plantation doors opened onto a veranda, inviting a view of verdant parklands and the scent of night-blooming jasmine into the room.

I wondered how I would have reacted in the situations that Rachel found herself in, like when she asks Nick about his grandmother’s female attendants…

“Who were those two elegant women in matching silk dresses standing like statues behind her?” Rachel asked.

“Her lady’s maids. They never leave her side. They’re from Thailand and were trained to serve in the royal court.”

“Is this a common thing in Singapore? Importing royal maids from Thailand?” Rachel asked incredulously.

“I don’t believe so. This service was a special lifetime gift to my grandmother.”

“A gift? From whom?”

“The King of Thailand.”

“Oh,” Rachel said.

Nick Young’s family is of the “old money” variety of wealth; no one in the family has had to work to earn a living for generations. The priority in choosing a mate is to connect with an individual who is of the same class; and even a regular millionaire won’t do! It’s this mentality that makes Cinderella marriages – such as Ariana Austin to Joel Makonnen or Meghan Markle to Prince Harry – so surprising.

Reading this book reminded me of the following quote I’ve read before from Ward McAllister, “A fortune of a million dollars is only respectable poverty.”

There are the rich. And then there are the unfathomably rich for whom money is a concept, nothing more. To them, money is like oxygen – in abundance everywhere – and asking how much a handbag costs in a Louis Vuitton shop is as ridiculous to them as asking how much oxygen is in said shop. It simply doesn’t matter. Their funds are as infinite as waves in the sea.

In Crazy Rich Asians, each chapter was told from a different character’s perspective. Normally I can’t stand books written like this because the volleying back and forth from character to character can be disjointed and leave me feeling like I can’t really connect with any one person’s story. But Kwan weaves such an interconnected, well-woven tale that to tell the story through just one character’s point of view would actually be inhibiting and leave so many details out.

This storytelling style is also representative of the cultural value of placing the community’s needs before the individual desires, which is portrayed deftly and subtly throughout various situations in the novel. I watched the trailer preview for the eponymous movie, and I think that this storytelling technique may be lost in the movie. It seems as though the movie may be Westernized and solely told through Rachel’s point of view, as the typical Hollywood leading lady determined to prove that love will conquer all (cue sappy love music and romantic close-ups here). I’m also not a fan of how Rachel’s best friend Peik Lin is portrayed in the trailer…Still, I intend to see it in theaters because I’m all about positive, diverse representation in the media, for all races and genders (shout out to everyone who saw Black Panther!!).

I want this movie to succeed so inclusive mainstream films continue to be made, but that’s a topic of discussion for another day. Crazy Rich Asians was a sumptuous read, and Kwan develops characters so well-rounded that I finished the book wondering how their stories would continue and progress beyond the ending. I plan to read the sequel China Rich Girlfriend next. Check this book out! It will make for a great summer read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *