Lestat's Reviews > Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
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really liked it

I read this book, ostensibly for work purposes. But, secretly, I was hoping to get my hands on it anyway as I was looking for a light read and this book certainly scratches that itch.

Kevin Kwan's book, set in Singapore, explores the members of some of its wealthiest families - each one shallower than the last. The activities of these people are outrageous and boggle the minds of the simple plebs who are reading it.

This book is fluff at its most glorious - Kwan's not trying to be literary, he's just showing off all the designer names he knows. We are meant, I think, to be in righteous awe of the glamour on display, but we aren't. The reader will go with the flow of the audacious display of wealth written about. But it's not a lifestyle a lot of us are hoping to strive for - the characters aren't likeable enough for us to emulate. Or maybe that's just me.

Seen through the eyes of young professor Rachel (an American-Chinese), the book gives the reader a stand-in to gawk at the luxury flaunted by all the characters. Some of the families flaunt their wealth in public, others don't. In the latter department is Rachel's boyfriend, Nick, the reason she is in Singapore. Unbeknown to her, Nick is part of the wealthy Young clan, and related to the equally wealthy Shangs and T'Siens. He's back in Singapore to act out his best man duties for his closest friend. A wedding that Rachel later learns is considered the Asian wedding of the century.

Not prepared for any of the opulence and politics, Rachel becomes mired in petty rivalries leading to a summer vacation from hell. She deserves better.

As mentioned, this is a light-hearted book which doesn't try too hard. Pages upon pages revel in descriptions of the clothes, jewellery and food of these crazy rich Asians. They're marvellous to read.

The trouble with this ensemble cast of characters, however, is that they are as hollow as the external images that they project. Everyone has some substance, even if it is banal and materialistic. Kwan does not investigate this. There is much telling and not enough showing. We can't quite figure out why Rachel and Nick are together; is it just because of looks? That can only take a relationship so far. And when they're your book's protagonists, it becomes difficult to root for their relationship when we have no clue what is the glue that binds them.

Same goes for pretty much every other relationship depicted in the book. There's simply no substance for us to judge these characters by. Why is Astrid married to Michael, when his lifestyle can never match hers? Is Colin really interested in Araminta, or is it because she's popular eye candy?

It also astounds me that the book lacks any LGBTQIA+ characters; there's nary a mention of their existence at all. If you want to bring in the cultural issues with writing these characters, then all I can say is being an LGBTQIA+ minority character is much better than being one of these main characters! How a contemporary author can wilfully leave out this segment of society is beyond me.

At over 500 pages in length, it is astounding that the book still manages to have a rushed ending. An ending that systematically butchers the one likeable (albeit vanilla) character there is.

(view spoiler)

Despite all the silly, shallow characters, I feel the worst of the lot is Nick. The guy isn't written with much personality, but he's a goof up all throughout.

(view spoiler)

I'm guessing you're not supposed to sit and analyse a romp like this, but it's a bad habit I can't shake. This is a crazy, easy read, but as enjoyable as most of it is, the rest begins to irk because of the formulaic nature of its narrative. I'd give it three and a half stars for being an escapist fantasy with an Asian twist. It could have been higher if not for creating a book as shallow as its characters.
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2017 – Started Reading
August 8, 2017 – Shelved
August 12, 2017 – Finished Reading

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