Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Published on: June 11th, 2013
Published by: Doubleday
Rating: 5 Alamak stars!
I am so excited to review this book because I absolutely loved it! It had everything I was looking for at the time — an interesting cast of characters, fascinating setting, and lots lots of cultural references! This was the fifth and last book I picked up for the #AsianLitBingo Challenge and probably the one I enjoyed the most! I can’t wait to go watch the movie now!!!
Rachel Chu is an ABC (American born Chinese) and her boyfriend, Nick Young, has just invited her to travel with him to Singapore. He’s from there and wants to show his girlfriend of two years the house, family and food he grew up with. They’re both living in New York City and working as professors at a university and have a life there. However, Nick forgot to mention that he’s “Asia’s most elligible bachelor.”
Coming from an extremely rich and priviledged background, Nick doesn’t realize how different this all looks to Rachel.
What at first sounds like a paradisiac holiday has turned into a living nightmare for Rachel. Without even realising, she had just walked into somewhere no one thinks she belongs. There’s money, dinners, bachelor and bachelorette parties, mansions, impromptu trips, and plenty of gossip and scheming.
This was such an entertaining book. To know what my full thoughts were, just keep reading!
I don’t want to make this review very long, so here are the main points I loved about this book.
I would say that around ninety percent of the characters are insufferable. They’re gold diggers, cheaters, care too much about their family’s reputation, are racist, and overall unlikable. However! That is exactly what made this book so riddiculously good.
All the characters have flaws — some more than others. Most of these flaws were impossible to look past, which made them extremely unlikable. But that doesn’t mean that they weren’t interesting! They were all so alive and they felt so real. All of them had their motivations to do what they did, and the author did a really good job at maintaining character cohesion. There was never a moment when a character spoke or acted in a way that wasn’t their own. This made the whole plot all the more interesting and captivating.
The setting is just mindblowing. This book takes place first (very briefly) in New York City, then (for the most part) in Singapore, and had also some moments in Malaysia and in Hong Kong and other cities in Mainland China. All in all, every single one of these places was beautiful!
I’m really happy that this isn’t set in just one city. After all, Singapore is such a diverse country, it only makes sense, right?! We had characters flying or driving from country to country and really got to experience how each of them work. The author did an amazing job at making sure every city and country was well-described. He captured it all — the bustling streets of Hong Kong, the peaceful environment in the colonial neighborhoods in Singapore, and even the beautiful serenity of an Indic Ocean island! I’ve never traveled to these places (yet!), so it was amazing to tour them like this.
Another thing Kwan nailed was capturing the culture of Singapore and all the other cities. This took the book to a whole new level. It isn’t just a beach read anymore, it is a cultural-interest book!
Kevin Kwan really did his best to incorporate several aspects of Singaporean, Mainland Chinese, and Overseas Chinese culture. He included words in the several languages spoken in Singapore, he described delicious dishes, explained a bit of colonial history, and even how the elite functions within the family. I feel like I now have more knowledge of Singapore than I did before
(well, it wasn’t that hard since I knew basically nothing…). There are just so many instants when the author took me by surprise describing the culture. I wasn’t really expecting this kind of depth from what I heard was a fluff-beach-read. Yay!
No, I don’t mean the writing — which also works very well. When I say I loved the language I mean that I loved how the author incorporated the different languages of Singapore into this book.
I have been taking a class at university about multilingualism, and one of the topics we touch upon is diglossia. In a simplistic way, diglossia is a linguistic phenomenon that happens when, in a community, several languages are spoken and they each have different functions. For example, within the family, one might speak Hokkien, but to co-workers and employers, one might resort to Mandarin or English. See what I mean? Different languages play different roles in society. I think it’s one of the most interesting things I have become aware of in university this semester.
Now, Singapore is a diglossal society. Different languages are used in different settings. However, this wasn’t really the case with Crazy Rich Asians and is only present to a certain degree. But I still loved the fact that Kwan introduced most languages spoken in the country. We had dialogues between multilingual individuals who spoke Mandarin, English, Hokkien and Malay all in the same sentence. Isn’t this crazy???? It’s the reality for a lot of people in the world, in Singapore included, and I loved the fact that it made it to the book. There were always annotations that explained what they meant, and even told the history behind those expressions.
The one that stuck with me the most was definitely “Alamak” which means something along the lines of “Oh my God!!!!” It was used to often that I just memorized it.
The family dynamics
Oh boy, are these families dysfunctional! There are three main families: the Youngs, the Shangs, and the T’siens. They all have their own problems and dramas inside the families, but there’s this sense of belonging that unites them. It’s practically impossible to get inside these families, and those who marry into the family have always felt this. I really like seeing families portrayed in books, so this made me definitely like Crazy Rich Asians even more.
Here is a family tree so you can see how complicated and branched out they are. If you want to zoom in, click here.
And I’ll leave it there! Have you read this book yet? What did you think? If you have a review up, I’d love to read it!