Books

Book 577: Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1) – Kevin Kwan

After really enjoying the film adaptation of this, I knew I was going to have to read this trilogy! I picked up a copy of this first book pretty quick from the library, but I’ll be on hold for the next two until mid-2019 at the rate it’s going. That’s okay though I have so many other books to read.

If anything the book and the movie made me want to visit Singapore. One of the previous college’s I worked for had a satellite campus in Singapore, so I was vaguely aware of the culture and the people going in, but after reading about the food and seeing some of the awesome architecture in the movie and just from image searching, it’s definitely moved up my list of places to visit.

I guess because I’d already seen the movie and knew the basic plot, I was more fascinated by the other things that caught my attention over Rachel and Nick’s adorable rom-com life. I found Constance Wu and Henry Golding to be perfect as Rachel and Nick and OMG Michelle Yaoh can do no wrong, her portrayal of Eleanor managed to convey all of the bad juju that the book gives you in droves with looks and minor hints that the movie gives you. That final scene of the film between Rachel and Eleanor – TO. DIE. FOR. I’m wondering if/how it happens in the book, but I guess I won’t find out until I get the next book. I struggled getting into the book because of where it started and already knowing the story.

And although the adaptation was great, I felt the book edged out the movie. The used all the humorous lines from the book including the first below, but also had the second one that I snorted my drink up my nose because I wasn’t expecting it.

“Aiyoooooh, finish everything on your plate, girls! Don’t you know there are children starving in America?” (137)

“NEVER, EVER wear green chiffon unless you want to look like bok choy that got gang-raped.” (356)

I also found the writing to be incredibly approachable and easily readable, but at the same time included words that I had to verify I knew what they were (like mellifluous) or that I straight up had to look up in the dictionary (like sybaritic) [both dictionary.com links].

The other thing that caught my attention in the book just happened to be because I listened to podcast on it recently was the drama/controversy/shade about blepharoplasty or “double eyelid” surgery.

“Were they double-lidded naturally, or did she have that eyelid surgery?” (90)

I’m not sure I would have picked up on this if I hadn’t just listened to the 99% Invisible podcast on this very subject:

If you’ve never heard of “double eyelid” surgery, or even if you have, I recommend listening to that episode. It’s a little under 30 minutes and was (horrible pun intended) eye-opening.

Recommendation: Definitely worth the read. If you want a light summer rom-com beach read it works. If you want a social commentary read on the super wealthy it’s worth a read. And I’m sure it works on many other levels that I’m not at all aware of as a white man in the US, so check it out!

Opening Line: “Nicholas Young slumped into the nearest seat in the hotel lobby, drained from the sixteen-hour flight from Singapore, the train ride from Heathrow Airport, and trudging through the rain-soaked streets.”

Closing Line: “Rachel rolled her eyes and smiled. ‘Let them be, Mom. Let them be. This is just how they all are.'” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)

Quotes from Crazy Rich Asians
“She hadn’t seen this particular brand of superior sneer since she was a child growing up in the waning days of colonial Singapore, and she thought this kind of overt racism had ceased to exist.” (5)

“‘You’re the only Chinese mom I know who’s actually encouraging her daughter to shack up with a guy.’ Rachel laughed. ‘I’m the only Chinese mother with an unmarried daughter who’s almost thirty! Do you know all the inquiries I get almost every day? I’m getting tired of defending you.'” (32)

“Was Nicky truly prepared for all the land mines he would be setting off? He could be rather oblivious to the intricacies of the world he had been born into. Maybe he had always been shielded by their grandmother, since he was the apple of her eye. Or maybe Nick had just spent too many years living outside of Asia. In their world, you did not bring home some unknown girl unannounced.” (37)

“Eleanor had a long-held theory about men. She truly believed that for most men, all that talk of “being in love” or “finding the right one” was absolute nonsense. Marriage was purely a matter of timing, and whenever a man was finally done sowing his wild oats and ready to settle down, whichever girl happened to be there at the time would be the right one.” (57)

“To Eleanor, every single person occupied a specific space in the elaborately constructed social universe in her mind. Like most of the women in her crowd, Eleanor could meet another Asian anywhere in the world—say, over dim sum at Royal China in London, or shopping in the lingerie department of David Jones in Sydney—and within thirty seconds of learning their name and where they lived, she would implement her social algorithm and calculate precisely where they stood in her constellation based on who their family was, who else they were related to, what their approximate net worth might be, how the fortune was derived, and what family scandals might have occurred within the past fifty years.” (57)

“Mark’s not white, he’s Jewish—that’s basically Asian! But that’s beside the point—at least I dated plenty of Asians in my time.” (88)

“Araminta squealed. ‘OMG—I love him! He’ll always be the one and only Mr. Darcy for me!'” (113)

“For beneath the wide grin and the charismatic personality, Colin struggled with a severe anxiety disorder and crippling depression, and Nick was one of the few people allowed to witness this side of him. It was as if Colin bottled up all of his pain and anguish for months at a time, unleashing it on Nick whenever he was in town. To anyone else, this would have been an intolerable situation, but Nick was so used to this by now, he almost didn’t recall a time when Colin wasn’t swinging between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This was just a prerequisite of being Colin’s best friend.” (144)

“Many of the wealthiest people here make an effort not to stand out, and most of the time, you would never know you were standing next to a billionaire.” (152)

“Whether the Chinese want to admit it or not, the true connoisseur-ship of Asian art was outside of China for much of the last century, so that’s where a lot of the museum-quality pieces ended up—in Europe and America. The demand was there. The moneyed Chinese didn’t really appreciate what they had. With the exception of a few families, no one bothered to collect Chinese art and antiquities, not with any real discernment, anyway. They wanted to be modern and sophisticated, which meant emulating the Europeans.” (186)

“That’s not the case over here. No matter how advanced we’ve become, there’s still tremendous pressure for girls to get married. Here, it doesn’t matter how successful a woman is professionally. She isn’t considered complete until she is married and has children.” (278)

“Singapore was a meritocracy, and whoever performed well was invited into the winner’s circle. But those people—those people behind the gates were a sudden reminder that this was not entirely the case.” (298)

“Wye Mun, as usual, had steered him toward the stories about money, and he had missed the chance to tell them the real story, about a man whose greatness had nothing to do with wealth or power.” (308)

“‘That’s not my worry, Peik Lin. Look, no price tags anywhere—that’s always a dangerous sign,’ Rachel whispered.” (354)

“Well, I sensed that I was different because I lived in this big old house with all these rituals and traditions, but I never thought it had anything to do with money. When you’re a kid, you’re more concerned with how many pineapple tarts you’re allowed to eat or where to catch the best tadpoles. I didn’t grow up with a sense of entitlement like some of my cousins did. At least, I hope not.” (452)

“I’ve had enough of being around all these crazy rich Asians, all these people whose lives revolve around making money, spending money, flaunting money, comparing money, hiding money, controlling others with money, and ruining their lives over money. And if I marry you, there will be no escaping it, even if we live on the other side of the world.” (481)

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8 thoughts on “Book 577: Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1) – Kevin Kwan”

  1. I haven’t seen or watched this, but what I’ve heard does sound good. I’d love to go to Singapore, though. High on my list, just because of the food!

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    1. Honestly, they did such a good job with the film you could watch it as a stand alone. The book ends a little earlier than the film, so I’m curious of how the second book ties in to this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you liked this! The book is very fun and due to my own heritage, I got so many of the references (included the eyelid surgery one) and understood some of the slang and idioms. It’s really refreshing to read a Western published book like this. Will you read the sequels? I find the middle book the weakest, but the last one is well done. You can also see the progression of Kwan as a writer. He’s not perfect, but he does do some things well.

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    1. I’m planning to read them! I’m in the 200s on hold at the library though, so it could be a while 😀 I’m glad to hear he improves as a writer – he wasn’t bad but definitely had room for improvement.

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