Friday, November 16, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan

Summary:  An outrageously funny debut,  Crazy Rich Asians is the story of three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occur when Nicholas Young, heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia, brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry.  What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.  Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond her imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor; Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about whom her son should - and should not- marry.

A romp through the Far East's most exclusive playgrounds - from the glittering penthouses of Shanghai to the private islands in the South Chine Sea-- Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian jet set, a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money and between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese, and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.  (Summary from book - Image from goodreads.com)

My Review:   I picked up Crazy Rich Asians because I heard some positive reviews of the movie and decided I'd like to give the book a go before heading to the theater.  I love the basic premise of the story:  Girl meets boy and they fall in love.  Boy is secretly super-duper rich and girl finds out far later than she should.  Snooty relatives disapprove.  Hi-jinks ensue.  Will they make it through?  Was the plot particularly original?  Not really.  Was it potentially amusing?  You bet.  Crazy Rich Asians delves into the lives of the ultra-rich Asian population, a culture utterly unfamiliar, and therefore fascinating, to me.  With talk of dinner parties, high fashion, romance, and vicious betrayal, I had high hopes for a delightfully romantic, slightly catty, afternoon read.  Alas, it was not to be.  Oh, it was full of all the jaw-dropping opulence and high-society drama you might expect (and secretly enjoy), but the story still left something to be desired.

Perhaps the first clue that things weren't going to go my way was when I opened the book and, searching for the beginning, came across an extensive family tree. As a general rule, I am not a fan of books that pelt you with a million hard-to-keep straight characters.  I'm just not in that place right now, and that is what Crazy Rich Asians does right out of the gate.  Pelt pelt pelt.  I'm glad the family tree was there though, because, boy howdy, was I forced to continually refer to it while reading.  My mind was in a near constant state of: Now who is that?  So-and-so's cousin?  No, brother?  *refers to family tree*  Oh okay....that's the brothers granddaughter's husband.  Got it.  And repeat every few minutes.  Also, there were footnotes.  While I appreciated the extra explanations/clarification about certain aspects of Asian language, culture, or history, they were yet more things that I had to "pause" the story to read.  Now, if I were reading a textbook, charts and footnotes would be welcome additions to the text, but I just wanted something easy.  Some fun chick lit!  I didn't want to have to work for it, you know?

Another aspect of the book that sort of soured the experience for me was the frequent language and occasional innuendo. Several characters were prolific in their use of profanity and others didn't mind engaging in all sorts of less savory pursuits.  While it may have been perfectly in keeping with their character, it wasn't in keeping with mine.  That's my personal preference, and might not bother you at all, but I have to call them like I see them.

Overall, I loved the basic bones of this book -- the story line, setting, and some of the main characters -- but I think that for those readers bothered by profanity or some lewdness and innuendo Crazy Rich Asians might be one of those rare stories that is best consumed in movie form. *Gasp*  I know.  It's not a recommendation I make often, but I'll let you know when I see it.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:   The review pretty much says it, but this book isn't for you if you are sensitive to profanity or lewdness/innuendo.

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