Sunday, August 28, 2016

Crazy Rich Asians (by Kevin Kwan)

This is by a guy, but I'm still giving it the "women's contemporary fiction" label because this falls into that category. It's the story of a regular New Yorker named Rachel Chu, engaged to a man named Nick Young who invites her back to Singapore to meet his family. Little does she know, they are rich. Not just rich, but filthy rich. Not just filthy rich, but crazy rich.

Kwan is familiar with this subculture of extreme wealth (where everyone has billions and one wedding costs $40 million) and the descriptions are extremely detailed, with conspicuous consumption and cutting-edge brand names everywhere. It's satirical and entertaining. For the first two thirds, I enjoyed it as a fluffy and fun vacation read. Then it went downhill for me.

The last third switches from each chapter being from the point of view of a single character to being scenes set in various places that jump around into various characters' points of view, often gratuitously. This leads to a lot of akward showing instead of telling. "He wondered what he could do to reassure her in this moment. He stroked her back."  We don't need to go into his point of view for this, we can just see him stroking her back and understand it's meant to be reassuring. Lots of weird awkward writing like that.

There's also the issue that Rachel Chu, our "fish out of water" character, is not that well developed. She is supposedly an economist with a Ph.D. but comes across as bland and generic, albeit sympathetic. I wanted a bit more intelligence, a bit more Elizabeth Bennet out of her.

The biggest issue is that almost no plotlines get resolved. It's 500 pages long! It's fun and fluffy! Where is my ending? Where is my resolution? Where is the comeuppance for the bad guys?  Of course, as soon as I finished it I learned there was a sequel. But even if that's the case, and threads are left dangling, at least one or two main plotlines should be resolved, shouldn't they?

Anyway, meh. Fun, but could have been much better. I will not be picking up the sequel.  

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