2021 Reading List: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Here’s a fun, light-hearted read for you. Of course I had to read Crazy Rich Asians, by Keven Kwan, before I watch the movie and see what all the hype was about.

I finished this book pretty quickly, but not because it was particularly great. For the first half of it, I actually thought the plot was pretty boring. It was extremely descriptive of the rich lifestyle led by these families in Singapore and rather lacking in the action. Of course, the detail and nuances about their lives was necessary for the reader to truly understand the reasons and emotions behind the later actions.

In fact, as I watched the movie the day after finishing the book, I was extremely disappointed that they had to change so much in the movie to make it fit. They lost the “jet-set” lifestyle, the travel across the globe at a whim, the designers and fashion in Paris. They lost the rich and complex history of the families’ relationships, their grudges and alliances, their marriages for money and status and social standing. Of course, a movie can’t give you all the detail of a book. That’s why I had to read it first.

I found myself asking several times if the lifestyles of these crazy rich Asians could be true. Are there really people in Singapore who spend thousands on a single dress? Who spend forty million dollars on a wedding? Are there really people with guards outside their houses and millions in jewels and personal chefs that guarantee they never have to learn to cook?

I Googled this and the answer is yes.

And then, as an average, middle-class American woman, I wondered how wealth can possibly be so unevenly distributed. Without launching into a full-blown post about economics and politics, I just want to state here that I don’t understand how there are people in the world who have this much money and can watch as so many millions of people in the world are struggling. Why not just solve world hunger? Why not set up a foundation, get women and children educated, give access to clean water, provide medical assistance and supplies, anything? Literally anything. Instead they buy and consume and show off and complain and compare.

If you have that much money do your morals and values really get so out of whack that you don’t care for humanity? You become selfish and arrogant?

I’m just grateful that at least the main character, Nick Young, wasn’t the one flaunting his wealth. Despite this book being written about a class of people whose lifestyle is so out of reach and out touch that most regular Americans like myself wouldn’t be able to fathom, at least the main characters were down to earth and relatable. At least we could connect on a level with Rachel in feeling blindsided by the opulence and extravagance. We could see their lifestyle from her eyes because it’s from our eyes as well.

As far as a little summary for you, it’s a pretty classic tale of a prince falling in love with a commoner and bringing her home to become the princess. Some nuances and background of course. The family drama and the disapproval they have for Rachel before even meeting her makes you wonder if she either truly won’t last in a family like this or if she won’t even want to. The side stories of Nick’s cousin Astrid and some other family members gives more depth and detail to the tapestry of wealth that the author is weaving. And the story is set along the backdrop of the biggest wedding Asia has ever seen, giving us even more insight into the extravagance.

It was a cute, fun little book and worth it for a summer read. I would definitely recommend the book over the movie. As usual.


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