The first time I felt rich I was ten and I had just won $70 at the Del Mar Horse Races. I pocketed the cash proudly and my family and I drove directly to the bookstore, where I bought seven paperbacks, each $9.99. The rush I felt when I held that stack of books, books I bought with my money, was exhilarating.
This made picking up Kwan’s debut seem like a natural occurance. I thought I knew all about American rich- time to move onto Asian rich.
Although Crazy Rich Asians appears to be a novel about clueless Rachel Chu traveling to meet her boyfriend Nick Young’s mysterious family, Crazy Rich Asians is really a novel about dynasties. Nick’s family embodies the idea that it’s lonely at the top. The only people they let into their circle are people who have the right parents, go to the right preschools, study in the right bible groups, attend the right boarding schools, and contribute the right charities. Rachel has done none of these things. But, she loves Nick. Nick loves her. It comes down to this: what is more valuable, family or love?
Crazy Rich Asians opens at a posh hotel in London. When Nick’s family is refused service by a racist hotel clerk, his family buys the hotel. This sentiment- that money is everything and everything is accomplished through money- that sets the tone for the rest of the novel.
“I have no idea who these people are. But I can tell you one thing – these people are richer than God.”
Kwan, a native Singaporean, delights in introducing readers to a world far beyond the imagination- sometimes so ridiculously saturated with wealth it seems whimsical. To ease the transition, he adds witty footnotes informing readers about everything from desserts the cook makes at the posh primary school Nick (and Kwan himself) attended to sharp translations of Singaporean slang.
Crazy Rich Asians is a soapy, voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of Asia’s intoxicatingly wealthy. It is an unabashedly elitist portrait of the top 1% of the 1% that is not to be missed.