Book Review: Before It Was a Blockbuster Film…

Royce Guo, Co-Editor-in-Chief / School News editor

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“China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.”

The quote, originally said by Napoleon, opens the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s New York Times bestselling novel, Crazy Rich Asians.

The quote is quite fitting; today, it is near impossible to escape the news of the newly rich of Asia and their offspring. Crazy Rich Asians, book one of three of Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, is told from the perspective of five characters: American Rachel Chu, her Oxford-educated beau Nick Young, fiercely protective mother Eleanor Young, and couple Astrid Leong and Edison Cheng.

The novel follows Rachel Chu, an economics professor at NYU, as she is brought by her boyfriend Nick Young to the “wedding of the year” in Singapore. Unbeknownst to Rachel, her Nick happens to be one of Singapore’s most sought after bachelors, hailing from the one of the wealthiest families of Asia.

What follows is a whirlwind of opulence as America born Rachel is thrust into a world of extravagant spending and high speed chatter. There, Rachel’s naiveté is prodded and questioned as she enters the status consumed world of the so called “crazy rich.”

As much as the novel grapples with the complexities of nouveau riche and old money that occupy Asia today, it is also a story of Asian American personhood. Rachel’s experience of being treated as an outsider—a gauche American—while carrying her Chinese appearance is one experienced by Asian-Americans across many generations.

In addition, Kwan’s choice of Singapore as the novel’s setting yields an interesting mix of multicultural elements across Asia with a modern spin. “I really did see this as an ethnography of a culture and a species of people,” said Kwan to the Washington Post, “It is meant to be deeply satirical of this world… I’m putting a lens on it and allowing people to make their own decisions about how they feel about this.”

While Crazy Rich Asians is set in Asia, the struggles of the characters between love and family and between rich and poor are universal in nature. If you enjoyed the film adaptation, the novel Crazy Rich Asians offers a deeper look into the world of the film and the lives of the ultra-affluent of Asia.

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