Why I picked this book
This book has long been displayed in the bookstores. But judging from the title, I thought it was a self-help or a how-to. You know how it goes. I utterly hate for something or someone dictating how I live. So I never looked into this. After years and years of the yellow glitz and glam cover taunting me, I gave in. I read the back cover and discovered: It’s not a guide book after all. It’s a novel, and has a hint of comedy too. How can I not pick it up?
Two sentences summary
Welcome to world of crazy rich Singaporeans. Rachel Chu doesn’t know what she’s in for, when she flies to Singapore with her silently rich boyfriend, Nicholas Young.
My favorite characters
Astrid Leung. Who could not love her? Unlike other characters, she doesn’t have to try so hard to look rich. Aside from super duper expensive dresses and expensive jewelry, all she wants is a happy marriage, a happy family. You can’t blame her for being rich. She was just lucky. And she NEVER boast around about her money. That’s how cool she is. Everyone wants to be her but to actually BECOME her, you just have to stop paying attention to other people. Of course, the issue around her husband CANNOT be ignored. It’s impossible to look away on that aspect. But she exhumed grace under pressure, it looked like she’s not having troubles at all.
Cassandra Shang. Ultimately known as Radio One Asia (or the great gossip), I admit that she’s not someone to admire. Butting in on other people’s business is not something to look up to. However, she set the motion in this crazy family. She reports every juicy detail. Seriously, her connections make her viable to work on an information service. Just make sure you’re not on the receiving end!
Eleanor Sung. I know she’s sort of the ‘bad’ guy here but those conversations going on in her head is so funny and sarcastic! And it’s not her fault to be the protective mother hen. It’s what moms should be! I know she went overboard this time, but I just can’t hate her. With all her life trying to make sure that her beloved Nicholas Young lives the life most people dream of, you just don’t want some gold digger trying to destroy everything.
Peik Lin. I would love to have a rich friend like Peik Lin. She showers you will all the luxury one can’t afford and she sincerely loves you. Rachel Chu is blessed to have such a caring friend.
My favorite scenes
The Prologue. Who couldn’t laugh about it! It was written smartly and comical, I can almost imagine it being reenacted on a movie! Because racism is still apparent on some places, this moment just put a stamp on every judgmental mediocre who thinks he can point out who’s worthy and who’s not.
When Auntie Elle was sniffing information out of Astrid. Very, very clever for Eleanor Sung. It’s typically hard when one’s child doesn’t share most of what’s happening in his life. A mother has to go beyond drastic measures to get the information. This was just a simple conversation by the phone, but the way Eleanor’s mind was turning, it looked pure evil…in a funny way.
Locals arguing about the best places to eat. I love this serious verbal altercation about food. It’s not always about the rising greatness of the country. It shows how culture fusion has worked out in terms of food in Singapore. It becomes impossible to select just one place where everyone can unanimously say is the best. Seems like everywhere is the best place to eat!
Oliver’s little schemes. Aside from Astrid and Nick, Oliver tells Rachel tidbits about the family. He knows how clueless Rachel was when she arrived (Nick, that’s your fault) and he has somehow introduced Rachel to the viciousness of this family.
Also, Oliver is a dutiful grandson, who knows when to side to whom. I love the way he fills Kitty with little details that sets to motion another big scandal!
Astrid and Michael’s confrontation. I loved how Michael confessed his growing hatred for Astrid’s family. If I was in his shoes, most likely I would feel the same way.
Charlie Wu’s feelings. I feel bad for this guy. He has loved Astrid for forever. He is even willing to help out her husband’s company just to see her smile.
Rachel Chu’s connection to Taipei Plastics Chus. This is overly funny! The gossip spreading wide about Rachel’s family is utterly ridiculous but downright hilarious. With Rachel being so wide-eyed about everything, I felt sorry for her. Still, the confusion made on every encounter gradually makes her aware how ‘plastic’ these people are.
Kerry’s story. Emotional and heart-wrenching, I believe this is the most difficult scene to put up with. Not only did it erase all kinds of humor, we are shown how cruel the culture in China was to Chinese women. Her story reminds me so much of The Joy Luck Club, it’s like an entirely different setting, and is entitled to be created as another book.
What I don’t like
Nicholas Young. I’m not sure why, but he acts as if he doesn’t know what his family is like. He didn’t prepare Rachel for upcoming chaos. I mean, HELLO, even if he was brought up not to talk about himself, couldn’t he get a clue that his life in Singapore is wayyyyyyy above his life in New York? Didn’t he listen to Astrid’s advice? I’m sure most men are like that: pretending to be ignorant. Still, the only moment he showed some guts in front of Rachel is that disastrous getaway in Malaysia. What a disaster! He’s a good friend but seriously, a lousy boyfriend.
Michael is not actually cheating. It would have been more believable if he had a mistress. Sure, we can sympathize to his ordeal especially during the parties held by Astrid’s family. But, creating this fake story doesn’t quite fit in. Why go into greater lengths when he can immediately just tell her? The mistress thing adds realism.
The old women going to China. The only dialogue worth mentioning on this scene is when Eleanor finally caught a slimy info about Rachel’s past. In all entirety, I think the Shenzhen scenario could have shrunk to a few paragraphs.
How do they act? How do they talk? How do they live their lives? How do they raise their children? Some of them are the typical hoity toity, gossip mongers, a few are still wary about spending, a few who are too spendthrift, others are social climbers, a selected bunch who doesn’t give a damn about money, the rest gives too much of a damn about money and whatever kind of group that only the rich are able to have. This book allows us a peek of what crazy rich Asians are truly like. The situations they go through are as real as you and me. Kevin Kwan is telling a story of real life in the midst of fictional characters. And I enjoy being thrust to this world he created! Dust off on your knowledge of designers clothes, it’s gonna be a one hell of a private jet ride!