Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan was the April Mocha Girls Read book club selection. The story revolves around the romance between Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young. The two NY based professors are in love. Nick invites Rachel to spend the summer in Singapore with his family. Nick is the best man for his friend Colin Khoo’s wedding. The plan is to get the big event over with and travel around Asia. Sounds fun, right?
However, Nick fails to explain exactly how extensive and wealthy his family is… Rachel is woefully unprepared what to expect. Thankfully, Rachel has a college friend, Goh Peik Lin, from Stanford living in Singapore to help her out. She was one of my favorite characters bringing humor and lightness to the book. Her Singaporean family were especially hilarious because of how curious they are about Nick’s family. The Goh’s became rich from success in business rather than inheritance like Nick’s family. It also doesn’t help Nick was taught by his family to be particularly modest about their wealth. I absolutely loved how Kwan satirized the levels of wealth by contrasting all the families. It exposes the holes in the class system. They seem to envy and criticize one another to ridiculous levels.
The majority of the book’s conflict comes from Nick’s mother, Eleanor. She has certain expectations of her son and isn’t afraid to do some questionable things to do what’s best for him. Her refusal to accept Rachel brings out some serious skeletons in the Chu family closet. This of course puts Nick’s and Rachel’s relationship in crisis. What Eleanor doesn’t expect is that she may have ruined her relationship with her son as well. Poor Rachel sets off on this amazing vacation only to be hit with so much unexpected hostility. I 100% blame Nick. By the end of the book, I think he finally understands his mistake. But honestly, it was quite shocking how much he didn’t tell his girlfriend or his mother before they met each other. Not everyone is awful in Nick’s family though. Most of the family welcomes Rachel, including his grandma Shang Su Yi . She is the wealthy head of the family living in an actual palace with her own royal servants! Astrid, the haute couture obsessed housewife, has met Rachel previously and adores her. Astrid was a very interesting character that I hope is expanded upon in the follow-up novel. In addition to the family conflict, Nick happens to be one of the most eligible bachelors in Singapore. Several women set their sights on him and don’t care that he’s in love with Rachel!
The novel has a huge cast of characters with each chapter being told from a different character’s POV. I was so thankful for the detailed family tree outlined in my hard cover copy. I don’t know how I would have kept all the family connections and straight. I read this book in less than 24 hours as part of the Dewey’s 24 hour readathon, which helped. I’m so excited for the film adaptation hitting theaters in August. It will be amazing to see all the fashion & architecture details brought to life on screen. There is some backlash surrounding the lack of brown Asian representation in the book and the film. It’s definitely a Western take on Singapore. I didn’t find the book over-glamorized anything especially since most of the wealthy characters aren’t painted in the best light. However, their servants and the politics of the region have definitely been glossed over. All in all it was fun read and wouldn’t mind reading the rest of the trilogy. I’d say the book is not required reading but certainly will help you become familiar with the huge cast of characters. I highly recommend the novel for Gossip Girl fans and readers of Candace Bushnell.
Read more of my reviews and musings on Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict.