I think Crazy Rich Asians is one of those books which many aspiring writers wish they wrote, as it would have been so much fun writing it, transporting yourself and immersing yourself into this fictitious world of the uber rich! And in the process of living vicariously through your fictional character, becoming extremely rich in the process!? As the book becomes a global best-seller, movie rights being picked-up, and the movie adaptation breaking all sorts of box office records!!? What an extraordinary journey that would be!!?? And Kevin Kwan has joined this select few in turning their casual scribbles into a global phenomenon. First there was J.K. Rowling who managed to become a self-made billionaire, then Stephenie Meyer soon followed, then it was E.L. James who had a spanking good time of it, and now there is Kevin Kwan!!!?? But from all accounts, it sounds like Kevin Kwan was already in the world of the uber rich before this book, as the story he told was loosely based on his own childhood upbringing. Like, what the! There are really people who are that ridiculously rich in real life, and it’s not just a figment of someone’s imagination? CRAZY! RICH! ASIANS!
So after 6 months since we first started the audio book (we started shortly after the movie was released) I’ve finally finished listening to Kevin Kwan’s book, Crazy Rich Asians. And here are my thoughts, but just before I do so, let me give you a super quick and short synopsis (as I’m sure most of you have either read the book or seen the film by now). So here goes, essentially the story surrounds an extremely wealthy Singaporean family/clan, the book is written in the first person perspective of 5 different characters, the 2 main characters being Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young (Yes, that Nicholas Young of the ‘Young’ family). Rachel and Nick reside in New York and they have been dating for several years, but Rachel is blissfully unaware of Nick’s generational wealth and the life he was accustomed to in Singapore where he originated. However the penny (or gold bullions) start to drop for Rachel when they travel to Singapore for Nick’s best friend’s wedding and she gradually learns of Nick’s family’s wealth and how affluent all of Nick’s friends and associates are. The story follows Rachel’s discoveries, Nick’s naivety, and his family’s response to having this ‘commoner’ intrude on their exclusive world. And weave in some infidelity, ex-jilted lovers, scandal, and old money Vs new money, racism, fashion, and excesses of the wealthy, and you pretty much have Crazy Rich Asians!
To tell you the truth, I’m divided in what I think about the book. On one hand, I enjoyed it as a fictional story; it was satirical in nature; like the British Royals, but insert Asians here! So the book has created much Asian pride among us Asians living in the West, as this is a depiction of Asians which we’d like to hitch our wagon onto, i.e. being seen as wealthy, powerful, and extravagant, beats the alternative perception of Asians being cheap, subservient, and frugal (although that might be closer to the truth). But on the other hand, the book was crude at times, a bit over the top, and if you were ever one who was bullied by ‘Mean girls’, it could be a difficult read as it can conjure up some bad memories for people.
When my wife and I were listening to the audio book, we went through patches where we were absolutely powering through the book, but then we’d hit a bump in the road (it could’ve been a section of the book, or just the stuff going on in our own lives) and we’d stop listening for a few weeks or even months. And as we’d usually listen to the book just before bed, there was this patch where I’d keep falling asleep, so my wife continued on without me. And then one morning my wife told me that she didn’t want to listen to it anymore! I was perplexed as I thought we were enjoying it, and I wanted to listen to the whole trilogy, how could we achieve that if we gave up on the first book? So that was that, Crazy Rich Asians lay unopened in the cyber world on a virtual bookshelf for a number of weeks before I decided to finish the book on my own.
So as I had mentioned, I had kept falling asleep during the book and it had been a while so I had to track back 4-5 chapters until I found the last spot I had clear recollection of; and as I made my way forward to where we had left it I finally found the part which turned my wife right off the book. Yeah, it harks back to the ‘Mean girls’ element of the book which I had touched on before, Kevin Kwan does do such a great job of capturing the essence of Mean girls, that he made it a bit too real? So when my wife and I had a chat about this, she told me that she “listens to books for escapism, not to be reminded of reality”.
So yeah, the book perhaps isn’t for everyone. However if you’re able to push past these segments of the book and these themes don’t concern you, then by all means go right on ahead and read/listen to Crazy Rich Asians, as it makes for a scandalous indulgent read. My personal complaint was that it was annoyingly difficult to work-out the kinship between the characters and who was whose mother or aunt or just relation by marriage. What it probably needs is a family tree diagram in an appendix section of the book explaining some of the relationships (which the audio version does not have). And my second gripe about the book, is the constant use of Chinese/Cantonese/Mandarin/local dialects, which they don’t always translate back into English for the benefit of the reader/listener. Again the book would probably benefit from a glossary of slangs used within the book (which the audio version also does not have). Thus to this day I still don’t know what ‘Ala-Mak’ means? Apologies if I’ve just sworn at you or offended, I really don’t know the meaning of that saying!
Now that I’ve finished the book, I was brave enough to read the Wikipedia post about the movie (I was avoiding spoilers all of this time), and there are some differences from the book and the movie. So if you’ve seen the film but haven’t read the book……Go for it! As they’re different enough and I’m sure the book contains detail which the movie just can’t cover in 2 hours. And vice versa, I’m interested to watch the movie now, but I just have to get over my ‘First world problem’ of not having a working DVD player. Haaha. And after giving it a bit of a rest, the plan is to listen to the sequels (China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems……Have to admit, those titles just doesn’t have the same ring to them!).
So if you want to read more about Crazy Rich Asians, the Wikipedia page for the book and film is quite informative and detailed:
And for the audio book version of Crazy Rich Asians, here is the Audible link:
And the narrator, Lynn Chen does a pretty good job of narrating the book, nailing all of the canto/mando/Malay/Hokkien parts, she even has a pretty good singing voice. (Check that out at 9 min 14 seconds into chapter 54!)
Yeah, let me know what you think of Crazy Rich Asians, do you prefer the book or the movie?