Crazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan, 2013
Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the 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, Nicholas Young, 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 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 who her son should—and should not—marry.
Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich. (From the publisher.)
Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore. He currently lives in Manhattan. Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel. (From the publisher.)
When Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians has a mother in Singapore telling her girls to finish everything on their plates because ‘there are children starving in America,’ it’s O.K. to get the joke. There’s no need to dwell on what it really means. Crazy Rich Asians is this summer’s "Bergdorf Blondes," over-the-top funny and a novelty to boot. Mr. Kwan delivers nonstop hoots about a whole new breed of rich, vulgar, brand-name-dropping conspicuous consumers, with its own delicacies, curses, vices, stereotypes ("I hope she’s not one of those Taiwanese tornadoes!") and acronyms. According to Mr. Kwan, this crowd uses U.B.C., as the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, is known, to mean "University of a Billion Chinese." How rich and vulgar are the Anglophile Asians of this debut novel? Rich enough to throw a diamond of more than 30 carats into a snowdrift and not look for it. So vulgar that a Cirque du Soleil troupe has to show up to convey that things have gotten crass. So steeped in wretched excess that one man boasts about the precise temperature his climate-controlled shoe closet should be.
Janet Maslin - New York Times
Crazy Rich Asians is both a deliciously satiric read and a Fodor’s of sorts to the world of Singapore’s fabulously monied, both new and old.
Sherryl Connelly - New York Daily News
An entertaining and well-written book about the life of the Chinese super-rich, a new class who are keeping alive five-star hotels, restaurants and luxury shops around the world.... The wealth of the book is in the detail—of the personalities, the places, the clothes and the colours of Singapore, Kwan's native place.
Louise Rosario - South China Morning Post
Deliciously decadent.... Rachel, an American-born Chinese (ABC), has no idea what to expect when she visits Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick’s multibillionaire family. There, she discovers mind-blowing opulence—next season’s couture, palatial properties, million-dollar shopping sprees—and the over-the-top bad behavior that comes with it.... This 48-karat beach read is crazy fun.
Stephan Lee - Entertainment Weekly
There’s rich, there’s filthy rich, and then there’s crazy rich.... A Pride and Prejudice-like send-up about an heir bringing his Chinese-American girlfriend home to meet his ancestor-obsessed family, the book hilariously skewers imperial splendor and the conniving antics of the Asians jet set.
Crazy Rich Asians is like Dynasty on steroids with more private jets, bigger houses, and a lot more money. It is the very definition of a beach read. I finished it over a weekend and by the end was longing to see the ridiculously extravagant and over-the-top world that Mr. Kwan had created.... I predict this will be the 50 Shades of Grey of this summer.”
Michael Carl - VanityFair.com
It’s impossible not to get sucked into this satirical novel about the jet-setting lives of an enormous busybody family and its infinite Louboutin collection.
Read Kevin Kwan’s debut, Crazy Rich Asians, on an exotic beach in super-expensive sunglasses.... [Rachel] encounters outre fashion, private jets, and a set of aristocratic values so antiquated they’d make the Dowager Countess proud.
With his debut novel, [Kwan] delivers an uproarious, comical satire about a jet-set life that most of us can only imagine. It’s a page-turner that will leave you wanting more.”
Claudia McNeilly - Hello! Magazine (Canada)
Mordantly funny.... In Kevin Kwan’s winning summer satire, Crazy Rich Asians, a young woman discovers her boyfriend belongs to a milieu of unimaginable splendor—and snobbery.
Kwan’s debut novel is a fun, over-the-top romp through the unbelievable world of the Asian jet set, where anything from this season is already passé and one’s pedigree is everything. When Rachel Chu’s boyfriend, Nick Young, invites her home to Singapore for the summer, she doesn’t realize how much gossip she’s generated among Asian socialites around the world. To Rachel, Nick is a sweet, intelligent history professor—and the first man she’s imagined marrying. To the Asian billionaire set, he’s the gorgeous heir apparent to one of China’s most “staggeringly rich” and well-established families who virtually control the country’s commerce with their ancient fortunes. As soon as she steps off the plane, Rachel is ushered into the opulent world of castle-like estates and mind-boggling luxury. As if the shock of realizing the scale of Nick’s wealth is not enough, she must also contend with a troupe of cruel socialites who would absolutely die before they let Singapore’s most eligible bachelor get snapped up by a no-name “ABC” (American-born Chinese). There is also Nick’s family—his imposing mother, Eleanor, who has exact ideas about who Nick should be dating; his beautiful cousin Astrid, who the younger girls dub “the Goddess” for her stunning fashion sense (she was “the first to pair a vintage Saint Laurent Le Smoking jacket with three-dollar batik shorts”); and Nick’s cousin, the flamboyant Oliver, who helps Rachel navigate this strange new world. A witty tongue-in-cheek frolic about what it means to be from really old money and what it’s like to be crazy rich. (June)
When Nicholas Young asks American-born Rachel Chu to summer with him at his home in Singapore, she doesn't realize that he is in fact heir to one of Asia's wealthiest families. Juicy stuffy that's culturally interesting for clarifying the difference between mainland and overseas Chinese; billed as Jackie Collins meets Amy Tan.
(Starred review.) Jane Austen, or maybe Edith Wharton, goes to Singapore, turning in this lively, entertaining novel of manners. You've got to like any novel set in Asia that includes, among many splendid one-liners, this amah's admonition: "Don't you know there are children starving in America?" Of varying ethnicities but resolutely members of the 1 percent or aspiring, one way or another, to be so, Kwan's characters are urban sophisticates par excellence, many of them familiar with the poshest districts of London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong. Many of them are also adrift, with soulless consumerism replacing society: It's Less Than Zero without all the coke. When socialite Astrid, for instance, is in a mood, as she so often is, she goes shopping in boutiques haunted by "the wives of Persian Gulf sheikhs, Malay sultans, and the Indonesian Chinese oligarchs." Not half-bad company, but then Astrid moves in a rarefied circle around the richest of the rich. At its center is 32-year-old Nicholas Young, whose ABC girlfriend--American-born Chinese, that is--Rachel Chu, has come to Singapore to meet the family. To Nick's credit, she is taken aback by just how phenomenally wealthy they are. "It's like any big family," Nick assures her. "I have loudmouth uncles, eccentric aunts, obnoxious cousins, the whole nine yards." Well, and then some. Rachel discovers that the position of being Nick's intended isn't an easy one--not only are there other would-be plutocrats gunning for the spot, but the family also doesn't make things easy, either. A diverse set of characters and a light, unstrained touch move Kwan's story along. Yet, even though one feels for Rachel, there's a point--right about at the spot where one of her new girlfriends is showing off the yoga studio inside daddy's new jet--that one gets the feeling that Ho Chi Minh might have had a point after all. An elegant comedy and an auspicious debut.
1. Compare how Nick’s mother (p. 21–28, p. 56) and Rachel’s mother (p. 31–34, p. 68) react to hearing about their trip to Singapore. What do their reactions reveal about each of them as mothers? What qualities, if any, do they share? What is the significance of the “Chinese Way” (p. 68) in the mothers’ approach to courtship and marriage? Compare this with Rachel and Sophie’s conversation about marriage later in the book (pp. 278–79).
2. Does Nick’s description—“It’s like any big family. I have loudmouthed uncles, eccentric aunts, obnoxious cousins, the whole nine yards” (p. 67)—match the way most of us view our own families? Why doesn’t he tell Rachel more about the background and status of his family before their trip?
3. What does Rachel’s view of Asian men reveal about the complications of growing up Asian in America (p. 90)? How does Kwan use humor to make a serious point here and in other parts of the novel?
4. Discuss the role of gossip in the novel. What kinds of rumors do Nick’s friends and family spread about Rachel, and why How do misunderstandings and misinformation (intentional or not) propel the plot and help define the characters? Consider, for example, the conversations at the Bible study class Eleanor attends (p. 108–109) and the chatter of the guests at Araminta’s bachelorette party (pp. 262–70).
5. Do you see the events surround Colin’s wedding and the ceremony itself as brazen, even crude displays of wealth or are there aspects of the celebrations that are appealing (pp. 393–416)? How do they compare to society or celebrity weddings you have read about?
6. What sort of future do you imagine for Nick and Rachel? Is it possible for Rachel to fit into a world “so different from anything [she’s] used to” (p. 431)? Does Nick fully understand the reasons for her doubts and unhappiness? What supports your point of view?
7. Why does the author devote different sections of the novel to specific characters? What effect does this have on your impressions of and sympathies for the problems and prejudices that motivate each of them?
8. What do the marriages of Eleanor and Philip, Astrid and Michael, and Eddie and Fiona show about what makes a marriage work and what can undermine even the best-intentioned husbands and wives?
9. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, "The rich are different from you and me." In what ways are the characters in Crazy Rich Asians different from you and the people you know? Do they reflect the values of the particular communities Kwan explores or do they represent the ways of rich people everywhere? How do the divisions between economic and social status manifest themselves in American society?
10. The novel makes a clear distinction between old money (the Youngs and their extended family) and new money (Peik Lin’s family, for example), as well as between Mainland and Overseas Chinese. What differences do you see between these groups and the way they deal with their wealth? How does this shape their perceptions of themselves and one another?
11. Crazy Rich Asians is a story of the extremes of conspicuous wealth and consumption. Which scenes and settings in the novel best capture this excess? What do the many references to well-known luxury brands and exotic, expensive settings contribute to your sense of the time, place, and worldview of the characters?
12. Nick’s family has enjoyed wealth and privilege over several generations. Discuss the impact of their position on each generation, from the imperious Eleanor to the status-consumed Eddie to Astrid, the It girl of Asian society, to Nick. Despite their very different approaches to life, what rules or traditions influence their behavior and interactions? What elements from his past does Nick retain, despite his new life in America?
13. What role does the legacy of European imperialism play in the older generation’s tastes and style? How is the younger generation affected by their travels abroad and exposure to modern-day Western society? What insights does Rachel and Nick’s conversation with Su Yi give into the melding and clashing of European and Chinese cultures over the course of time (pp. 335–38)?
14. In addition to straightforward explanations of Chinese words, what function do the footnotes serve? In what ways do they help the author to fill out the narrative or comment on the context and content of his story? Look, for instance, at the notes on pages 141, 180, 219, and 263.
15. Behind its satirical tone and intent, what does the novel suggest about the ethical and emotional implications of the behavior that the characters indulge in? Does it make you think about some of your own actions or decisions?
16. What did you know about the financial boom in contemporary Asia before you read the novel? Were you surprised by manifestations of wealth depicted in the book? Peik Lin’s father says, “[T]his so-called ‘prosperity’ is going to be the downfall of Asia. Each new generation becomes lazier than the next.... Nothing lasts forever, and when this boom ends, these youngsters won’t know what hit them” (p. 303). To what extent are his insights accurate, not only in regard to the situation in Asia today but also to economic patterns across history?
17. Kevin Kwan has said that his novel follows an age-old literary tradition (Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2013). He points to Jane Austen writing about the “manor-house set,” Edith Wharton’s tales of America’s gilded age at the turn of the century, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s chronicles of New York in the roaring ’20s. If you have read these books—or other novels about the manners and mores of the past—discuss the echoes and parallels you find in Crazy Rich Asians.
(Questions issued by the publisher.)
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