Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan (2013)



Kevin Kwan’s debut novel has been made into a film which is currently on general release in the UK.  Reading this has certainly made the film into “a must see” as far as I am concerned.

Rachel Chu, a New York Economics Professor is invited by her boyfriend Nicholas Young to attend his best friend’s wedding in Singapore.  What Rachel does not know about Nick is that he comes from a super-wealthy Chinese family.  So far, so fairly standard chick-lit, but where this book comes alive is with Kwan’s almost obsessive detailing of this wealth written with such gusto that any niggles about reading about such privileged characters are soon dispensed with.  Rachel is propelled into the world of multi-million and billionaires whose ability to spend is only matched by their ability to bitch about one another.  The designers, cars, gadgets, clothes and food of the super-rich are catalogued in his tale in such detail that it turns what on the surface appears to be a quick read into far more substantial fare.

Nick’s world is populated by families obsessed with their standing, their background and their lineage and it’s unlikely that they’d ever accept Rachel into their circle.  We have here a class-based British Victorian novel transported to twenty-first century Singapore and it is quite a heady combination.

A sizeable family tree opens the novel and I consulted it many times to see who fitted in with who and Kwan is generous with his footnotes for definitions and for unlocking some of the mysteries of this world to our western eyes (he’s particularly fond of explaining food dishes).

There is almost an overload of the senses here with the whole thing being extremely visual which makes it an obvious choice for a film adaptation if Kwan’s balance between the slight plot, winning characterisation with great cameo parts and sheer opulence is maintained.

I read this book because it was getting very good word of mouth from people who borrowed our library copy and I found Plum Sykes’ on-cover recommendation of Chinese Dallas meets Pride and Prejudice irresistible.  I can certainly see where she is going with that.  Kevin Kwan has now completed a trilogy of novels with “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People’s Problems” available.  This debut is highly entertaining.


Crazy Rich Asians was first published in the UK by Corvus in 2013

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