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.
Sometimes I’m in the mood for a wild, romantic, crazy book which will sweep me away from the humdrum of everyday life and Crazy Rich Asians gave me all of that. Nothing quite like a book about the uber rich and glamorous to take you away from your 9-5 job!
Now I’ll say from the outset that this book isn’t for everyone and if you’re not willing to get into the humour of this book then you’ll probably hate it and run for the hills. However if you’re willing to accept the over the top, dramatic and sometimes ridiculous elements of the story, then perhaps you’ll enjoy it more. Not everything has to be taken super seriously to be enjoyable, in my opinion.
This book is opulent, theatrical and utterly crazy and I enjoyed every single moment. From the main plot of Rachel being thrust into a new world of wealth, lush parties and private planes to the numerous sub plots, there was so much going on! While I admit, sometimes it’s hard to keep up, at the same time it ensures there’s not a boring moment either. Much like Rachel, I was bedazzled by all that goes on. CRA is like a decadent soap opera, with just the right amount of dramatic flourishes but plenty of heart too. I’m a sucker for stories like this one.
I loved all the descriptions of the elegant dresses, lavish interiors and often comical customs of the rich crowd, Kwan puts together. While I’m sure not everything is factually sound, it’s still so entertaining to imagine. I went into this book precisely for the absurdity and so I wasn’t disappointed. Having seen the film version after reading the book, I feel like there are definitely some things the film does better simply due to timing and tightening the story up a bit more but there’s always pros and cons so it didn’t bother me too much.
Alongside the central romance between Rachel and Nick and the struggles they face due to Nicks disapproving family, especially his mother Eleanor. I really enjoyed reading about Nicks cousin Astrid and her story. Astrid Leong is a beautiful, stylish and compassionate woman, who is unlike most women in her circle. While she definitely isn’t shy about spending her money on a designer dress or two, there’s more to her than just her choice of wardrobe. Astrid is down to earth, generous and super welcoming to Rachel. While there’s an insane pressure on Astrid and her cousins to marry someone of suitable status, Astrid goes against this and marries for love. However, this decision is never quite accepted as her husband Michael Teo is always on the outside – or so he feels. This inequality causes tension in their marriage and perhaps even infidelity…
CRA definitely has a huge cast of characters and while some were more prevalent than others, they all contributed to the overall story and added their own touches. From Rachels eccentric college friend Peik Lin who is also super rich to Nicks cousins, Eddie and Alastair Cheng, one who puts on a show and the other the epitome of a rich playboy, there’s no shortage of quirky and sometimes frustrating characters.
What could have been improved:
Social commentary / exploration – I will say that while the tone of the novel is definitely lighthearted, there are some mentions of more serious issues such as classism, colourism, adultery, racism to name a few. There is also the use of some very derogatory language in the novel, including some racial slurs, which were entirely out of the blue and made worse by the fact that these go unchallenged and ignored. As well as this problematic language, many of these issues aren’t explored in great depth by any means and Kwan just scratches the surface. I wish in some ways that he did delve deeper into such issues as it would be an interesting exploration of how ideals such as eurocentric beauty standards are upheld for instance, as there is mention of cosmetic surgery in order to reduce appearance of monolids etc and colourism within the communities in the novel.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Crazy Rich Asians, was this book perfect? No, was it still really readable and addictive? Yup.