Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Review by Corinne Donnelly
In Crazy Rich Asians, author Kevin Kwan, a Singaporean native, satirizes the lifestyles of the mega-rich of Southeast Asia. The novel focuses first and foremost on Nick Young and Rachel Chu, an established couple in their late twenties, as they travel from New York to Singapore to attend the wedding of Nick’s best friend, Colin Khoo. Nick’s family, who he doesn’t talk about often, also happens to live in Singapore. Since Rachel has never met them, it’s the perfect opportunity for introductions. Kwan deftly maneuvers between multiple plot threads and many outrageous situations, all while juggling numerous characters and exotic locales.
If you ever wondered what it would be like to have a ridiculous amount of money, this is the book for you. But it’s more than just a depiction of the lives of the rich and famous. It’s also a unique look into a variety of travel-worthy destinations. Characters jet set to settings as ordinary as New York and Australia to as uncommon as Shenzhen and Macau. The third person narrator is also incredibly knowledgeable, as is evident in the addition of footnotes, some of which are quite funny.
While extreme wealth is obviously a huge leg up in life, it doesn’t solve all problems. In fact, it probably causes more trouble than you’d expect, particularly in relationships. Although Nick was not always forthright with Rachel about his family, their relationship is the most stable and down-to-earth among their friends and family. It helps that Rachel is so relatable. Her reactions to the extreme wealth on display are both realistic and impressively open-minded. Nick’s family is gigantic, so it’s fascinating to observe the dynamics between the various family members. Despite such a large cast of characters, Kwan gives them unique personalities that are easy to distinguish from each other. The family tree posted at the beginning of the book is also a handy tool.
The sheer volume of plot threads present should cause confusion, but Kwan navigates between them well. When the narrative veers away from Rachel and Nick, the paths taken are just as interesting. Kwan touches on subjects as diverse as the many types of love, designer clothing, infidelity, private islands, and racism (just to name a few). Despite a few chapters following an unlikeable character or two, it’s also hard not to be pulled in by the extreme situations they get themselves into. The entire book is compulsively readable.
On the shelf, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan may look like a shallow beach read, but there’s a lot more complexity to it than you’d expect. It provides a fascinating, albeit somewhat over exaggerated, look into a lifestyle that most people will never experience. As unbelievable as events can become, it’s impossible to not get caught up in the drama. The characters are fun to love and hate, and ultimately, who can resist the opportunity to judge the lives of the over privileged?