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Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Monday, August 12, 2013

Publisher: Corvus
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 5/5

It's summer and Professor Nicholas Young decides it is time to take his relationship with Professor Rachel Chu to the next level. He invites her to Singapore to attend his best friend's wedding and enjoy the delights of his homeland. Naturally, Rachel is nervous and excited at the prospect of the 'meet the parents' circus but Nick passed the test with her mother on the West Coast and she's already met his cousin Astrid, so what's the worst that could happen? Well, Nick forgot to mention that he is basically the Prince Harry of Singapore, his mother Eleanor would put Cersei Lannister to shame, and his grandma is basically Dowager Countess Crawley...with a lot more money. Oh and the best friend's wedding just happens to be the wedding of the century. Rachel finds herself thrown into this crazy milieu and spends most of her trip trying to crawl back out with her dignity and sanity intact. 

I haven't read anything this juicy and rip roaringly funny in a long time - a satirical masterpiece! First of all, it was nice to get an insight into a world that isn't talked about much in mainstream, Western media. I know the Middle East is a place dripping in excess but this was another level! 

The story itself was your standard outsider brought to a family gathering, doesn't fit in, everyone tries to stick a knife in their back. However, the characters were so vibrant and funny, so it didn't seem too tired and formulaic. Despite the multiple points of views, the story really does unfold through Rachel's eyes. I found myself getting caught up in the whirlwind of the luxury and decadence then plucked down to Earth by the backstabbing and bitchiness along with Rachel. 

I didn't think I would be able to keep up with all of the different families, the many members related by birth and marriage (I thought I had a lot of cousins), who has old money, who is nouveaux riche, who is mainlander, who is not etc, but by the end of the first part (it is a novel in three parts) I knew them all. I loved all of the Asian phrases and the footnotes to fully explain what the phrases meant and also the cultural and historical significance of certain places. 

If we're going to compare Crazy Rich Asians to the likes of Gossip Girl style novels (I haven't ready any Jackie Collins books, which seemed to be other readers' main points of reference) then I think Astrid was a far better Serena type ingenue. Kevin Kwan did a great job of painting an It Girl and allowing us to see what lies beneath the surface. Often these types of characters are ghosts of characters but Astrid was real with very real problems. However, at the end of it all, we still want to be her. 

Mostly, it was just laugh out loud funny - the gaudiness, the vanity, the opulence, it was just a delight to read. Eleanor and her posse were hilariously conniving, the girls chasing Nick were so catty, and many supporting characters in the form of cousins and friends provided non stop comic relief (Auntie Neena, Oliver, and Eddie were standouts). Oh and I loved the names too - Astrid and Araminta were the standouts. 

I'm not really an audiobook person but I listened to the preview of Crazy Rich Asians and I'm definitely going to get this one. It sounds like Lynn Chen really brings the story to life with the accents and melodramatic flair. 

Finally, I have to talk about the food. The descriptions of the food were out of this world. I've always wanted to visit Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong and the mentions of food in this book has increased my desire greatly. So, I'll have to woman-up and face that thirteen hour flight.  Overall, it was a brilliant book and I can't wait for the film

Money (That's What I Want) by The Flying Lizards on Grooveshark

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