Random House | May 2014
OK, I've to admit my curiosity was piqued after reading several positive reviews of this book. With the story mostly set in Singapore and that it was written by a Singaporean author, I felt the more I should read it. For this review, allow me to use a few Singaporean slang (or Singlish) since I felt it appropriate considering that's the prose of this book (don't worry, the author includes footnote).
To begin with, Crazy Rich Asians is a fun read. So what is the story about, har*? Basically, it's a story about some very rich families and their family dynamics and most of all, a love story between a crazy rich guy, Nicholas Young, and a clueless woman, Rachel Chu, who doesn't know his family background, lah*. Actually there shouldn't be any problem when love is concerned, after all what matters most is your love for your partner and vice versa, right? Wrong! At least not when Nicholas' family is concerned. Given their power, wealth and their society status, it seems natural to want someone who is of a good match in terms of wealth and background. Although Rachel holds a good position as a college professor (like Nicholas, except they are in different departments teaching at NYU), what sets her apart is her nationality (she's a Mainland Chinese) and that she comes from a single parent family. The real challenge begins when Nicholas decides to bring Rachel to Singapore to attend his best friend's wedding and "all hell breaks loose" when his family members (including a string of extended meddling relatives) decide to know (dig, to be precise) more about Rachel's background and there are enough gossips, clashes and backbiting to rip a person apart.
"Well, first of all, you must understand that there are two kinds of Chinese. There are the Chinese from Mainland China, who made their fortunes in the past decade like all the Russians, but then there are the Overseas Chinese. These are the ones who left China long before the Communists came in, in many cases hundreds of years ago, and spread throughout the rest of Asia, quietly amassing great fortunes over time." Pg 33
Aside from the complications of the couple's love relationship, this story also gives readers more than a glimpse of the mindset and status of these rich Chinese families; about the difference of old money and new money, and some conservative mindsets when family roots are concerned.
Urm, so Crazy Rich Asians may seem like a chicklit fiction (I don't like this definition, lah*) to some but it was actually quite a funny and entertaining read (at least to me) and an "eye-opening reading experience" (to foreigner readers). While there is nothing new about the family dynamics issue (Aiyah*, I suppose it happens everywhere), it is the culture, the society, the language (as well as all those local dishes mentioned) that set this novel apart and made it such an interesting read. There's also a second book, China Rich Girlfriend, and although it looks interesting (it follows Rachel's story and her birth origin), I guess I'll read it when the mood strikes, lah*. (I'm blaming it on my TBR pile and a library book I've borrowed lately.)
* har / lah is a common and a favourite form of expression to emphasise especially towards the end of the sentence. They don't really mean anything.
* Aiyah - "sigh," "well," "oh man...," or "blah".
For more Singlish, visit this link.
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