-Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians
Did you ever read one of those books that's so good, that you just can't put down, that you're zipping through, that when you're halfway through you get a feeling of sadness and loss knowing that this book is going to come to an end, and so you slow start slowing down your reading so that it will last longer?
The trouble in the too-affluent paradise of the characters in Crazy Rich Asians begins when Nick, a young NYU college professor who is in fact the heir to the fortune of a Singapore family that is "richer than God", decides to bring his Chinese-American girlfriend Rachel home to meet his family. Rachel, a professor of Economics, has no idea that her boyfriend is a billionaire-in-waiting, nor is she prepared for the opulence - and back-stabbery - of the world Nick whisks her into. Rachel arrives in Singapore unaware of the panic that the news of her existence has caused not only within Nick's family, who had plans for him to make a good match from a rich family, but among the other families of the Singaporean Chinese elite who had plans for one of their daughters to land the scion of Asia's plummest dynasty.
Kevin Kwan, himself a child of the richest of the Singapore rich, describes everything in the most minute detail. He has an eye for and and an encyclopedic knowledge of high fashion, jewelry, interior design and architecture, gourmet food, travel destinations, and the lifestyle - and troubles - of the wretchedly, excessively, oppressively wealthy. There's a character in the book, a gossipy but sympathetic and world-wise fashionista named Oliver who sees and knows all in the world of Asian high society. I'm taking a guess that the author might have fashioned this character a little bit after himself.
"I’ve seen weddings even more over-the-top than this. So many aspects of and stories in the book I actually had to tone down! The reality is simply unbelievable. They say truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, but there’s such a thing as believability when you’re writing a novel. I did a lot more simplifying and cutting out of the decadence and the excess than I did of adding it on, if you can believe that."
He then added:
"Sometimes I had to actually take details out, because my editor was like, No one will believe this. And I would say, But this really happened, and she’d reply, It doesn’t matter. You’re going to lose readers because it’s going to seem so unreal that people would spend this much money, or do something this excessive. So those parts were changed."
Crazy Rich Asians is good on so many levels. It's funny, yet it's got heart, and at times your own will feel wrenched. And it's fun reading all the delicious details. One comes away wishing to be able to visit Singapore, this version of Singapore, to see the people and their clothes and their manses, to visit their paradise hideaways, to taste the food they eat.
But alas, (sigh) that sort of thing is not for the likes of you and me, however rich we may be in our own world. The book is occasionally peppered with the characters' down-the-nose comments about the over-all shoddiness and hoi-polloity of America and all people and things American.
But if we can't actually taste the world of Crazy Rich Asians, we can at least savor it vicariously in Kevin Kwan's book, laughing all the way.
And - oh, happy day - you won't have to feel sad half way though! It turns out that Kevin Kwan has written a sequel