She sat in the airless vehicle, which was getting more stifling by the second. She could feel her heart pounding so quickly. She has just bought a three hundred and fifty thousand dollar diamond ring she didn’t much care for, a twenty-eight thousand dollar bracelet she quite liked, and a seven hundred and eighty-four thousand dollar pair of earrings that made her look like Pocahontas. For the first time in weeks, she felt bloody fantastic.
The quote above was on my mind when I saw these dramatic, near-shoulder-grazing earrings in New York City’s trendy SoHo neighborhood earlier this year. These earrings were obviously impractical, like the ones Astrid Leong of Crazy Rich Asians impulsively bought. Where was I going to wear them? How often will I wear them? I don’t really have the lifestyle for jewelry this dramatic. Most of my time is spent at work or at home or at coffee shops.
But it was love at first sight. I stayed away for an hour or two to make sure I really wanted them. I did. Every time I moved away, my insides protested, anxious that someone else would snap them up. I still haven’t worn them outside the house, but whenever I take them out to admire them, I’m still as much in love. Pure joy was a good enough reason to purchase them.
Don’t worry, I didn’t spend anywhere near 784,000 dollars on them. And with that heartwarming love story out of the way, let’s get on with my review of Crazy Rich Asians.
In Crazy Rich Asians, two young New York University professors, Rachel Chu and Nick Young have been in a romantic relationship for a good while. Nick wants to bring Rachel home to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Rachel accepts, hoping Nick will soon propose.
What Nick omits is that he is heir to an illustrious and impossibly wealthy Southeast Asian clan. Upon arrival, poor and oblivious Rachel must deal with the culture shock, money shock, Nick’s unreasonable mother, class snobbery, and bloodthirsty single ladies.
So far, so cliché. A plot like this has the potential to be an entertaining, Austen-esque romp. Trouble is, Nick and Rachel are quite tepid and uninteresting. Their story never lifts above a clichéd romcom, even up to the ending.
Kevin Kwan provided several subplots, mostly a collection of rich people and their silly antics. Some of the dialogue is truly hilarious (and deliciously ditzy!). Overall, though, many of the characters felt like nothing more than caricatures.
(Don’t take only my word for characterization though. A friend whose diplomat family worked in Southeast Asia and a Singaporean Instagram pal said that the characters are pretty true to life.)
A notable exception is Astrid Leong’s subplot. Astrid is Nick’s glamorous and elegant socialite cousin. Her story succeeded in conveying genuine depth and feeling. Not necessarily a rebel, she does break away from certain conventions of her exclusive milieu. She married a middle-class man forging his own career instead of old money/a high-profile politician/a royal offspring/an emerging billionaire.
But if there’s anything money can’t buy, it’s a happy marriage. Astrid’s plot feels sincere because its conflict is believable. I actually wished for Crazy Rich Asians to center its story on Astrid. Plus, she is written as a chic lady with impeccable taste and a discerning eye for style, rather than throwing money at designer labels. Come on, you have to admit she sounds a lot more fun than an everycouple.
I was skeptical of the Crazy Rich Asians series (it’s a trilogy) when it started getting hype. The plot sounded like a typical romcom and it probably gained traction because the novel detailed a socioeconomic milieu Western readers didn’t know about. Still, I’m not immune to hype. And wasn’t it my duty as a Southeast Asian to read a novel about Southeast Asians that convinced Hollywood to feature a majority Asian cast for a film in twenty-five years?
While I didn’t find it particularly interesting, I don’t discourage anyone from reading Crazy Rich Asians. It’s fun and glossy. It may not offer anything new or particularly thoughtful, but every bibliophile needs a glossy read once in a while. It would be a good book to jumpstart your reading if you’ve been in a slump. It would be great for vacation too.
When all is said and done, however, my primary purpose in writing this review is to show off those gorgeous earrings and talk about them.
Have any of you read Crazy Rich Asians? What do you think?
11 thoughts on “Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan”
Have not read the book, but I love your earrings!
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Thanks! It’s good to hear from you.
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The book wouldn’t be to my taste but i do fancy those earrings. Now I have longer hair all those little studs are lost so I need something more dramatic. I’d love some expensive ones but there is no point because I always manage to lose one of the pair
I am obsessed with earrings and actually, you can find reasonably priced, more dramatic ones in many places these days. Department stores often have them.
I tend to lose the posts/the back of earrings, which is annoying.
Those earrings are fabulous!! You should definitely wear them out, even if it is just to the coffeeshop. I’m not sure if I’ll get around to reading Crazy Rich Asians, but I definitely want to watch the film at some point. It sounds like fun escapism.
You know what, I think one of these days I totally would wear them just for the coffee shop or dinner/tea with a good friend. There really is no reason not to wear them out, I mean, I paid for them… And perhaps they will look cooler when slightly out of context haha.
I’m not averse to watching the movie either. The source material would make for a glitzy, fun, old-fashioned romcom.
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love your earring story! they’re fabulous by the way. i’m totally a shopper with constant book quotes in my head too (that way i can feel like i’m a movie star haha). i haven’t read the books yet but I loved the movie! thank you for sharing this book review! I just posted about the movie on my blog and gave you a pingback, and it would make me so happy if you could go check it out! ❤
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Hi! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 Hahaha, yes, having random book quotes in your head while shopping makes the process a little more glamorous.
I do want to see the movie now! I don’t think it has made it’s way to Indonesian cinemas yet, but I am now convinced I should see it. A couple of friends whose tastes I trust told me that the movie is great and that the things we disliked in the book were improved in the movie.
It interests me that you didn’t much like this, and I’m not surprised. I abandoned it after twenty pages or so; so often best sellers are not for me. They are like milquetoast after the translatedl lit I so love.
I so wish I can be the person who abandons a book that’s just not working for them. But I just can’t not finish a book.
And ha! I agree. Bestsellers can be a fun change, but they generally have no lasting insights or beautiful prose that stay with you.