The world is full of problems but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as following rich people’s problems. If you liked Gossip Girl, The Great Gatsby, and even the Real Housewives of whatever county, you are going to love Crazy Rich Asians. The lure of a luxurious lifestyle beyond imagination, incredible descriptions of food, a sweet romance, plus a lot of money and family drama, are all wrapped up in Kevin Kwan’s first novel, Crazy Rich Asians.
At over 530 pages, this book is about love and family, with the main conflict being classism, centering on the types of problems that only those with crazy amounts of wealth could ever worry about. Yet it remains relatable because we’ve all dealt with prejudice and discrimination in one form or another. Be it sexism, racism, ageism, or any kind of “ism,” almost anyone reading this book will relate to our protagonist and her struggle to impress her boyfriend’s super snobby and incredibly wealthy family.
Our heroine/protagonist is Rachel Chu, and I call her the protagonist because there isn’t a “main character” per se, but rather each chapter switches between multiple character’s point’s of view, kind of like in Game of Thrones. This actually makes it an even more captivating read particularly as *SPOILER ALERT* One of the cousin’s chapters represent an extreme version of what could happen to the main couple.
Chu and her somewhat mysterious boyfriend, Nick Young, are college professors in New York City, which is how they met. The plot begins with him inviting Chu to attend his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Nick Young is of course from Singapore and that is where his family lives. We quickly find out Rachel Chu is a kind of upper middle class, highly educated Chinese American. I say Chinese American because in the beginning we and Rachel believe she is ABC, or American born Chinese. *SPOILER ALERT* But this is never confirmed and eventually becomes a major plot point.
Of course, while they’re in Singapore Young plans to introduce Chu to his family. What could go wrong, right?
Just about everyone except Rachel Chu at this point know Nick is crazy filthy rich and we will soon find out his mom and grandmother, the owner of the wealth, aren’t willing to give Nick their “permission” to marry Rachel Chu (hint: it’s because of her lower social class).
For those of us ignorant Westerners, the story does touch upon the unique cultural and ethnic make-up of Singapore and the history of British colonialism, just briefly though, and there are a lot of footnotes to describe slang words and the names of food. Most important to note is that many of these high society, upper class extremely rich Singaporeans are actually Chinese by heritage, yet they look down on “Mainland Chinese” because supposedly mainland Chinese represent new money and that’s just so tacky, in their eyes.
But to them this is a huge deal, Nick Young’s family and his crazy rich friends think of themselves as established, more refined, rich people. Like in The Great Gatsby, where the East Egg dwellers like Tom Buchanan are the “established” money while Gatsby and the West Egg-ers are “New money.” Same concept. Except no one dies.
There are some really comical characters and moments, including one cousin of the main crazy rich family (the Young’s) who is so obsessed with appearances but is ultimately too fat to fit into his hand-tailored wedding suit from Milan.
All in all, it’s a perfect read for the weekend, especially if you’re still in vacation mode or looking forward to Labor Day weekend, this book has everything. Fun, history, culture, colorful characters and luxury of course, plus a sweet romance. Plus Kevin Kwan writes with elegant, descriptive prose.
If I were to give books ratings this is definitely a 4/5.