I found this book as a used book store a few years ago and, having heard of it once or twice, decided to buy it. Since then, I have seen it more and more and, as I’m sure most people know by now, the movie adaptation is coming out late summer. So I’d slowly been moving it towards the top of my TBR (since of course I have to read it before I see the movie) when a friend of mine mentioned that she was planning to read it this summer. That’s an opening if I ever saw one…so I suggested a buddy read and then a movie night. Clearly the idea was a go!
The plot synopsis is going to be super fast and easy, compared to most of the other books I have read recently. Basically, Rachel Chu has been dating Nicholas Young for about 2 years. They live in NYC and are both in academia. When Nick invites her to go to Singapore (where he’s originally from) with him for the summer primarily as his date to his best friend’s wedding, but also to travel and meet his family, she agrees. However, Nick has been a little less than open about his family’s situation, and it’s not til Rachel arrives in Singapore that she realizes how much money Nick’s family has. In fact, he is from one of the richest families in the whole area, his best friend’s wedding is pretty much the event of the decade, and the entire community is steeped in old traditions, expectations and opinions. Cue the drama!
Crazy Rich Asians is, in fact the perfect summer read/movie. Although it took me until about a quarter of the way in to really get into the swing of it, once I hit my stride I literally could not stop turning pages. Rachel and Nick are a very cute couple and, though there are clearly some communication issues, nothing is maliciously done. They are a strong relationship throughout the novel and I really liked that – there was lots of drama to keep me occupied without their confidence in their relationship being one of those things. That being a point of stability was refreshing. As far as the rest, oh my goodness was it entertaining. I enjoyed the cultural glimpses we got of high class Singaporean life, from food and language and traditions to the uglier prejudices and manipulations. It’s a world so far removed from what I know, both culturally and financially, that it almost didn’t seem real at times. It made for great reading. In addition, the footnotes from the author, clarifying language and honorifics, explaining foods and beliefs, had a perfect tone of snark and satire to them. And in fact, a few times he mentions his own experiences in the schools or with the foods he is writing about, which adds a really cool personal touch and also re-grounded the story in reality (at least for me). The nonstop gossip, maneuvering, and money spending made for an absolutely fascinating and diverting read.
Let me give a few small caveats to this review. As I mentioned, it took me a little while to get into the story. And I think primarily that’s because there are just so many characters. I flipped back to the family trees at the beginning a lot of times while I was first getting into it. Looking back, it maybe wasn’t that necessary – the main characters popped out and more clearly in time, and would have even without my extra effort I’m sure. However, if you are a Type A reader or that kind of detail bothers you, beware before you start. Also, there were a number of times that the dialogue rang a little false for me. I realize that this was kind of a social commentary book, meant to expose some ridiculous-ness and also to entertain, so if you (as I tried to) keep that in mind, that annoyance really ends up fading into the background. But the people did sometimes seem caricatured (especially the women), so again, if that is something that bothers you, mentally prepare for it.
Overall, this is a great satirical snapshot of a life experience. Go into this book knowing that it’s a singular perspective (this is obviously not what life is like for a majority), and meant, at least mostly, to amuse, and you will really enjoy it! It’s plot driven, nonstop drama and super fun – the perfect summer read. And honestly, I cannot wait for the movie because OMG I am expecting a production of insane proportion!