Today, I'm thrilled to review Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. This is an awesome hilarious book that has been on top-ten lists all summer, and had me laughing from beginning to end.
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by Doubleday
Format read: Hardcover/finished (owned)
Synopsis via Goodreads: (Abbr.)
However, after ruminating about it for around a month, I decided that it was high time that I sit down and actually figure out what I wanted say. Because after all, what's the most effective way to spread the word for a book that you love, if not to write a good, thoughtful review?
Things that worked:
I'm generally ambivalent about prologues - whenever I see them used in a book, I typically do think that they do add to the story.
However, I also know that some people are very anti-prologues, so let me just say: Kevin Kwan's prologue for Crazy Rich Asians is awesome. Not only does it succinctly add a lot of amusing background information to all of the main characters, it also sets the perfect, outlandish tone for the rest of the book.
If you're still hedging on buying the book, go online or go into your local bookstore, and read the prologue. I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be able to put the book down after that.
* The characterizations
I think it's important to note: you can't go into this book expecting serious, detailed characters. This is not the point of this book.
However, this isn't to say that the problems that the characters face aren't serious. They are, but they're written with a sly, comedic eye that somehow makes both characters and readers see the humor of their problems, even in the darkest moments.
If anything, I would say that the character reminded me a lot of Oscar Wilde's characters - rich, experiencing serious problems, but with a lot of humor ingrained into their fundamental interactions.
I think this holds especially true for Nicholas, and the more rational-minded members of his family, like Astrid. They're aware that they're exceedingly wealthy, but they're also not obnoxious about it. They wear their wealth very lightly - with humor and good grace.
* The writing
This is Kwan's first novel, but it definitely doesn't read like it. He masterfully weaves multiple storylines together, from multiple points-of-view, with a deft hand.
With so many families and so many characters, the writing could have gotten confusing, very quickly. However, Kwan kept all of the characters on track, developing their stories and backgrounds in a measured natural way, that eventually made me feel like I was a member of their social circle, and watching everything play out in front of me.
The writing itself is a breeze to read - the descriptions are rich and detailed, the conversations and internal thoughts of characters are smart, snarky and hilarious, and just insanely fun to read.
* The plotting
The book technically has two plot lines:
1) The main plot line, which is the relationship between Rachel and Nicholas, and her introduction to his (extremely crazy and rich) family, and
2) The backstory behind all of the main characters, including Astrid and Eddie.
In both instances, Kwan plots with precision - detailing the adventures and evolutions of these characters in real-time, while also adding the occasional flashback so readers can be more of a rounded look into the background of these characters. The backgrounds are also used in a way, including the type of information that helps the book hit its climax perfectly.
* The cultural element
As someone who is Asian, I'm often wary of authors who write books that claim to offer an insightful/profound/ look into Asian cultures. Because often times, authors are influenced by their own experiences, and may not have fully experienced all facets of other Asian cultures.
Definitely not a problem in this case. Kevin Kwan has a talent for finding the universality that exists through all threads of Asian culture - I cracked up, when Rachel's mom mentioned giving oranges as a gift, and Nicholas's mom was confused - and relays it beautifully on the page.
Things that didn't work:
(I wouldn't mind, Random House/Kevin Kwan. I'm just sayin'.)
YMMV, of course.
I highly recommend this book for everyone, but especially those who are looking to get out of a reading slump.