As you may have seen, like, literally EVERYWHERE, the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians has received some crazy rich attention. The New York Times bestselling novel, Crazy Rich Asians has taken the summer (or, rather if you’re in the UK, the early Autumn) by storm. With gripping storylines, relatable characters, Asian representation and, of course, one particular delicious Young money heir – oh yes, Nicholas, you absolute treasure, CRA is a hilarious insight to the world of Singapore’s wildest and wealthiest.
My journey with CRA began like most book journeys of mine do – with a ‘quick browse’ in Waterstones. As soon as I saw CRA on the ‘buy one, get one half price’ table, I practically LUNGED at it. I had heard of the film, and knew it was a book, but up until that moment, I hadn’t particularly thought of pursuing the novel until I saw it. You know those typical romance stories? When their eyes meet across the room and their hearts beat super fast and their hands involuntarily reach out to each other before their brains can even comprehend what it’s doing before they can stop it and they’re totally caught off-guard by this sudden sweep of indescribable emotions? Yeah, that was me when I saw the book and I’m not even joking.
*** SPOILERS *** (sorry- can’t help myself with this one)
The story begins with a prologue with the cousins, Eddie, Nick and Astrid in the 80’s as children, visiting London and their mothers checking into the Calthorpe hotel. Though this section is only a few pages long, it instantly gripped me, as it was just so relatable. The family get turned away from the hotel, due to literally their slightly dishevelled appearance from the rain, and of course, the fact that they are Chinese. As an Indian, I’ve also felt the wrath of snobby customer service attendants, who have noticeably given me poorer service compared to my white friends, and the only difference between us is… yes, you’ve guessed it, my skin colour. This opening is so important to not just people of colour, but to anyone who’s faced any kind of discrimination, because you rarely see it reflected in the media so blatantly. The best part about this opening section, is that when turned away from the hotel, the Youngs buy the Calthorpe and fire the racist manager, using his own words against him: “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises.” The sass and satire Kwan shows here, is rippled in sections throughout the book and is done in such a graceful manner.
The Asian humour is something I loved about the book as well. The little phrases in Malay slang and Cantonese have their own little footnotes at the bottom of the pages makes the cultural context of the story accessible to literally anyone who wants to read this book –aka I don’t care if you’re not Asian, READ IT. YOU CAN!! IT’S SO GOOD!! And the humour doesn’t just stop at the cultural satire, oh no. MY favourite couple lines were “And then he felt a strange daft from behind. His pants had split open at the ass.” I shit you not, this had me in stitches for a solid 10, because I have the sense of humour of a 10 year old. Obviously.
The entire story in CRA happens within the span of about a week and SO MUCH HAPPENS it’s crazy. Rachel Chu, Nick Young’s ABC girlfriend is one of the best written female characters I’ve come across, she’s strong, smart and funny, yet still shows vulnerable human emotions and realistic reactions to most things. Her down to earth personality makes her so likeable and I have a sneaky feeling that in the next book of the series she actually comes from money… potentially? I haven’t heard a thing about China Rich Girlfriend yet, so I could be really wrong! But it would be nice to see her reaction to be entitled to sudden gross wealth that she hasn’t married into.
Speaking of amazing women, let’s talk about Peik Lin who is like the best friend ever? She’s so giving to Rachel: buying her COUTURE, giving her rides with her driver so Rachel doesn’t have to take taxis and genuinely caring about Rachel without a shred of jealousy or spite when she finds out that Nick is a Young and how much money he posesses. Peik Lin is the underrated amazing human being who is the epitome of selfless and her family, though blessed with wealth are so welcoming to Rachel and help her with dealing with Nick’s family. Like this is the genuine dream, no? Kwan could have easily decided to add some drama to create an easy villain in Peik Lin, but chooses instead to have women support their fellow women, which is something I’d like to see more of in the books I read from now on!
Now, the story like I said was captivating and had me thinking about this world all day, every day. It was one of those books I was constantly looking forward to reading after I’d finished my work for the day. Kwan’s writing is a delightful hybrid of sass and moving emotion, because yes, I did sob happy tears at Colin and Araminta’s wedding scene. Kwan manages to make the explanation of his scenes interesting and ornate in their description, and as someone who instantly loses interest when scenes are being described, this was refreshing and artfully done. And Kwan, you little bitch, constantly teasing us with the ‘thing’ about Rachel’s family for the half the book? I was jumping up and down in my seat when I thought I’d find out, and would have eagerly paid a load of money to find out this juicy tidbit of Rachel’s family. Very well done there! Also- loved every scene with Nick’s mother, she’s like a villain you want to hate but can’t because you know all of her actions are born out of love and concern for her son. She very much reminded me of some nosey aunties I have myself!
I found the majority of this book wonderful and easy to read. The story was gripping; I cared about the characters, loved the style of writing and insight into Singaporean culture and had the biggest craving for satay after finishing it. The only thing I wasn’t too keen on was the scene with Rachel and her mother at the end of the book. The explanation felt rushed and unlike other major plot points, wasn’t delicately woven in with the rest of the story. It just felt like it was there at the end of the book, as if Kwan felt like he owed it to the reader to give them some sort of closure with this poor attempt at another twist. It felt like it had just been dumped there and little thought had been put into other ways it could’ve been told. But, I understand that endings are also difficult to write and it’s hard to wrap things up whilst tying up loose ends. I just feel like this ending explanation could have been done in a more creative manner. But other than that, it was an exciting read and an excellent segue out of my YA Fiction habit!
A solid 4/5 stars. (I guess I’m doing star ratings now, how about that?)