Crazy Rich Asians
By: Kevin Kwan
Published June 11, 2013
When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.
On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.
I don’t know why it has taken me so long to read this book. It’s been out for five years and I have seen it on bookshelves in the past, but I have never committed to buying and reading it. I recently saw that Crazy Rich Asians was being adapted into a movie coming out in August and I knew I needed to read it fast. I’m the kind of person who refuses to watch the movie adaptations of books until I have read the book first. If the book isn’t good, it’s likely the movie won’t be either.
I have always had an interest in Asian cultures. I studied Mandarin in high school and college, I have visited China, and I love Asian cuisine, history, and the emphasis they put on family. You don’t need to be an expert on Singaporean or Chinese history, or be familiar with the languages in order to read this book. Kwan does a fantastic job providing appropriate footnotes that translate common idioms or phrases, or provide context to historical events. The footnotes are not overwhelming, and you can hear how Kwan uses his personal voice more in these notes.
One thing that I appreciated about this book is that it is different from many of the romance novels I have read. The relationship between the main characters has already formed and about half of the book focuses on supporting characters. However, I never felt like any chapter was irrelevant to the story. Kwan is able to weave the development of Rachel and Nick’s relationship through the stories and viewpoints of others. It’s quite impressive.
There are conflicts in this book that center around money, love, family duty, tradition, passion, and sacrifice that I think will resonate with readers even if one cannot empathize (Let’s be real here, I don’t think any of you have boyfriends/girlfriends who are secretly billionaires. I know, I’m sorry. One can dream). However, Crazy Rich Asians also makes readers think about what is truly important in a relationship, what can be potentially deal-breaking, and what can or should be sacrificed in the name of love.
I really enjoyed this book. I found it funny, heartbreaking, and exciting. Although exorbitant, I found Kwan’s story believable and I don’t doubt that there are people out there who live these kinds of lives.
Groundbreaking precedent As I mentioned earlier, Crazy Rich Asians is being adapted into a film (US Release Date: Aug. 15, 2018). This film is special because it features an all-Asian cast. That’s right. A film about Asians that features only Asian actors. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, in a Hollywood film culture that has lacked representation of Asian actors in Asian roles (see Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Emma Stone in Aloha) or has penned Asians as failing to assimilate to American culture or speak proper English (see Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles or Lilly and Kimmy Jin in Pitch Perfect), having a film that is properly represented is something we have not seen before. I can’t wait to see it!
Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ-YX-5bAs0