Nick Young comes from a long line of wealthy Asians in Singapore but hasn’t revealed that side of him to Rachel, his girlfriend of 2 years. When he invites her to come with him to his best friend’s wedding, she’s apprehensive but figures it must be a good sign that their relationship is moving forward if he wants to introduce her to his family now. Word of Nick’s return, and bringing a girlfriend, sets the gossip chain moving fast as all his extended family and family friends speculate (nastily) on whether this Rachel is worthy of joining the family. Rachel, not knowing what kind of snobby world she’s about to step into, is overwhelmed and caught off guard making her question her and Nick’s future.
This book was touted as a mix of Shopaholics meets Devil Wears Prada, and that isn’t too far off. To be honest, and with all due respect, I’m pleasantly surprised that this novel was penned by a male author. It has all the markings of exactly what it’s compared to – a chick-lit type book – but Kwan manages to give such a well-rounded narrative with many of the characters, both male and female, that it fleshes out the story. The beginning of the book had a family tree that I referred back to often in the beginning but he manages to make everyone fairly distinctive that it wasn’t too difficult to keep who everyone was straight.
Perhaps it’s the mark of a successful author to fully engage the reader into their world. I laughed at the many familiar Cantonese phrases (that were helpfully footnoted) since I could picture my own relatives’ voices saying those exact same things. I am curious, however, to see what other people, who aren’t as familiar with the slangs and phrases, thought of the footnotes and whether it translated well to the same effect or not. On the other hand, Kwan’s snobby rich characters were successful in irritating me to no end. These catty women evoked feelings of anger in me that I hadn’t felt since Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter or Miranda Priestly in Devil Wears Prada.
The extravagance depicted in Crazy Rich Asians is certainly mind boggling to consider that some people actually live that way. I found myself connecting with Rachel’s character a lot in many ways (especially her being perceived as an “ABC” – American Born Chinese, and me being a “CBC”!), and I’m sure she was, in a way, intended to be the “eyes of the reader” in this unbelievable world of riches. Definitely an entertaining read with a relatively satisfying climactic showdown.