Laura Mooney, Arts Editor
With a title as blunt as Crazy Rich Asians, one may assume the story beyond the cover would follow suit and be a mindless, fluff-filled, straight-to-the-point plotline. In some respects, it is essentially just as the title states–a story about crazy, rich Asians. However, as the reader opens the blazingly bright, golden cover adorned with fluorescent pink writing, he/she becomes well informed that this is anything but a simple story.
Author Kevin Kwan begins this extravagant tale with the short introduction of a Chinese family trying to check in to their London hotel late at night, only to be met with extreme racism and judgment from the hotel staff. In response to the crudeness of the staff, the matriarch of the family makes a few phone calls and, soon after, much to the chagrin of the racist hotel manager, purchases the entire hotel. This sets up the entire tone of the novel, with the over the top lavishness only climbing to higher extremes as the story progresses through their son (Nick’s) love affair.
Crazy Rich Asians is the story of Rachel Chu, a young woman who is launched into her Nick’s (her boyfriend’s) secret world of wealth when she is asked to accompany him on a trip to visit his family in Singapore. Only once she arrives does Rachel realize that Nick’s family is practically royalty, and his world is beyond anything she had imagined. Now she must learn to be a part of it. She is quickly swept up in a frenzy of exquisite dining at exclusive clubs, galas at enormous imperial palaces, and meetings with royalty and high powered politicians from all around the world. On top of all of that, she has to go through meeting Nick’s individual relatives, consisting of three extended families, each wealthier than the last. However, while Rachel is amazed by Nick’s fantastical life, she is also introduced to the much darker side of his family. Conniving relatives, including Nick’s mother, are determined to have Nick marry a girl appropriate to his status. Rachel faces unrelenting cousins focused only on their own amusement and satisfaction, and more inter-family gossip than the worst high school anyone has ever attended. Rachel is forced to figure out a way to not only survive this so-called dream vacation, but also to try maintain her relationship with the man she thought she knew so well. Although Crazy Rich Asians may appear to be an indulgent, over the top novel purely based on materialism, constant name-dropping, and vanity, when you look below the surface it touches on important issues, such as falling in love with someone outside of your “class system,” old world money versus the inherited, and the role of gossip within a family unit.
One feels genuine emotion for the main characters, Rachel and Nick. Everyone in a relationship has experienced that awkward first encounter with their partner’s parents, everyone has felt that pressure to impress someone more worldly and experienced than they are, and everyone has been the subject of unwanted, hurtful gossip. As the story progresses, the reader really starts to feel sympathy toward Rachel for the immense pressure that she is unwillingly placed under, knowing that she is only suffering because she loves Nick. These same feelings are also extended to Nick. Although he comes from an exceedingly wealthy family, he never comes across as pretentious or snooty, and the reader grows to respect him for avoiding this fate that has befallen many of his cousins and other relatives.
Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians is the ultimate indulgence for anyone who loves extravagance, and wants to escape into a world where the reader is offered an exclusive sneak peek into how of some of the richest (fictional) people in the world live. The perfect end-of-summer read, this novel is a great way to get in one last taste of luxury before heading back to reality.