Pick of the Week: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
This book provides a startling glimpse into the world of Asia’s super-rich. I mean scandalously, stupendously rich. Imagine women dropping $250K on a single couture dress, or a family throwing a $40 million wedding, complete with the Vienna Boys’ Choir imported to Singapore for the ceremony. Kwan’s story is not just about the jaw-dropping magnitude of the wealth, but the sense of entitlement, the snobbery, and the privileged lifestyle it creates.
Nick Young, scion of a prominent, moneyed Singapore family, is a professor in New York City and decides to bring his longtime girlfriend, Rachel Chu, back to Singapore to meet his family and to attend his best friend’s “wedding of the century.” The problem is that Rachel’s family comes from a small town in mainland China. She has no known noble lineage and no history of wealth. Predictably, Nick’s family and friends are horrified that he’s brought home this “nobody.” Poor Rachel has no idea what she’s getting into as she encounters reactions that range from disdain to outright harassment.
The simple plot is really just a vehicle for Kwan to write lavish, lengthy descriptions of how these Asians flaunt their wealth. Private jets, enormous yachts, private islands – it all turns up in this novel. It’s all sort of tongue-in-cheek – one especially pretentious character has named his dogs Astor, Trump and Vanderbilt. Kwan is exposing a side of Asian culture that Westerners know nothing about, and he satirizes it in such an over-the-top way that you can’t help but laugh.
I really had fun with this book. It’s an entertaining romp through an unbelievable world of privilege – a great choice for sitting down for a long read in the shade during these dog days of summer.