Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

I’m so excited to finally read CRA and write a review on it! This has OBVIOUSLY been the craze of late 2018 and I finally got around to reading it :) I’ll also tie in some of my thoughts about the movie into this review. Hope you enjoy!

A little backstory: I remember a few years back when I visited my local bookstore every Saturday morning, I would always see the cover of Rich People Problems, thinking that it’s some sort of non-fiction judgment on Chinese society. Who would have thought that the first book in that series got turned into a movie?


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Name: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan

Publisher: Anchor Books
Release Date: May 20, 2014 (1st pub Jun 11, 2013)

Synopsis

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.


Book Cover Comments

I KEEP wondering whether the cover is Astrid. I’m just gonna go ahead and say yes. This new cover has some reflective surfaces on the jewellery which is super duper adorable, and I love the simplicity of the not-screaming-at-me cover.


The Actual Review

It was really exciting to finally get around to reading CRA. The movie for me was positive, and I was dying to understand more behind the mastermind, Kevin Kwan, and his perception of the culture he grew up in.

Crazy Rich Asians was certainly a very exciting and interesting book. As my Hong Kong friend described it, it was like reading about her “mom and friends”. Which, is, kinda pretty true. Crazy Rich Asians plays on the classic Chinese stereotypical behavior, with instances such as being “modest on wealth”, “everyone being Radio1Asias”, “judgment on you and your family: are you really worth it?”.

It must be noted that both the book and the film amplifies these very particular Asian cultures. While some people in real life are indeed like that, the majority of us are pretty normal human beings. It is also extremely easy to stigmatize Asians after the movie or the book: as my friend today said, not all richass Singaporeans speak British-English; almost none of them do.

This franchise also focuses on the classical idea of an Asian, which are people who typically hail from Southeast Asia: Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Please do not stigmatize and group together the rest of Asia: countries such as India, South Korea or Japan.

The general book to movie plot was quite accurate which I indeed enjoyed since I watched movie first then book later, which would often end up terrible for most readers (but perhaps, book first movie later might end up MUCH. WORSE.) The movie focuses more on Rachel and Nick and making a RomCom out of the movie (i.e. with clothes-changing montages, amirite), whereas the book focsuses much more on displaying and bringing out the typical Asian culture while surrounding the love story of Rachel and Nick.

Rachel and Nick’s process to learning about Nick’s family was crucial to display what the classical and fatal problems of stereotypical Asian cultures are: while not as amplified in the movie, you can definitely feel it being much more worse in the book. The mood of words simply makes everything a little more serious, no? There is also a higher emphasis on Astrid’s plotline rather than just Rachel and Nick, which makes a good parallel storyline that is somewhat similar to Rachel and Nick, but of course, with different requirements and tailored to a different person as a whole.

This is not to say that this type of Asian culture only appears in rich people: as an Asian myself growing up in a partially typical Asian family, I definitely really relate to the portrayal of problematic aspects of traditionalism within Asian culture and the problems they cause. One of the most relatable things is surely gossip that spreads at godspeed and the stalkish nature of us Asians. For instance, I rang up my mother on the phone yesterday, I questioned her as to how she found the instagram account I opened for my dogs and she said it just popped up, following with her question of “How’s Crazy Rich Asians”. Mom claims that my feed just pOPS up in her feed, but she doesn’t even follow me. I was terrified to find out that mom sees my instagram (and perhaps some ig stories too), in which I felt extremely violated.

Dad, if you’re reading this, please do something about it.

As for accuracy of those random inserts of Hokkien/Malay/Singaporean/Mandarin/Cantonese words, I can say that it is fairly accurate and indeed correct! Plus points! The only thing I am going to complain about is the spelling for the Cantonese words: Kwan used a more, I suppose, Malay/Singaporean spelling approach which wacked it up real good. Took me quite some time to decipher what Cantonese phrase he was actually trying to use.


As I was bringing up this topic with my friends at dinner today regarding the movie, I thought I’d say it here: for me, as someone born in Hong Kong and grew up with the Hong Kong culture, the movie was good, but I didn’t necessarily react to it in the way that “OH WOW ASIAN REPRESENTATION IN HOLLYWOOD THAT’S AMAZING”. That’s true, but for me, I already grew up watching Chinese people act; it was more like, “this movie, while I was watching it in a foreign country, was reminiscent of home, and simply gives me a lukewarm feeling”.


I am very excited to see what Kevin Kwan has to offer in the next two books of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy as he continues to portray the typical Asian culture within literature!

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Joanne Lumiere

Joanne is the narcissistic founder of her book blog, Joanne Lumiere. Born and raised in Hong Kong, this 18 year old brat is currently attending college in Los Angeles, and still doesn't know how to read books with sophistication, and yet she runs a blog.

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