When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.
On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.
Guess who never, ever reads romance books? Or contemporary books? Or any other genre this book falls under. So then why could I possibly be reading this book? Well, like many Asian Americans, I’ve been swept up by the Crazy Rich Asians movie hype (first all Asian cast from Hollywood in 25 years!) and I just had to read the book before the movie comes out on the 15th. Somehow, just somehow, I really liked it!
What made this book really work for me was how relatable Rachel and her mother were to me. When she was describing Peik Lin’s college behaviour in the US, that’s exactly how a lot of domestic students view international Asian students. Also I finally understood why there are so many Porsche 911’s on campus because THERE ARE SO MANY. When Rachel and her mother are talking what to get Nick’s parents as a greeting present, Rache’s mom suggests those Estee Lauder makeup sampler bags you get from Macy’s after buying overpriced moisturizer. When I read that, I had to put the book down and text my friends because my mother literally does that!
I’ve had experiences with both rich and poor mainland China (I had dinner once with a family friend who brought his damn secretary), so when I first picked this up there were certain things I was expecting to see. Turns out my experience with ‘rich’ China isn’t very rich compared to the people in this book. The rich in this book are on a whole new level. The rich in this book buy entire hotels because the lobby host was snobby and racist. They buy designer clothes and jewelry like the average person buys groceries. Every single one of them has a strong grasp of the ins and outs of the stock market, and speculate properties like they’re trading baseball cards. It’s crazy, it’s insane, and it’s so fun to read.
The plot of this book follows several different groups of characters. There’s obviously Rachel and Nick’s trip to Singapore, but we also have Astrid, Nicks’ cousin and the conflict with her husband, Eddie, an old money guy that behaves like new money and his disagreements with his family, Eleanor, Nick’s mother, who’s trying to figure out how to politely break-up Nick and Rachel, and half a dozen others. There are several different family lines and dozens of characters all with their own rich people struggles. While some of them fade into the background, reading about each of them and knowing the author writes this from first-hand experience makes it oddly captivating.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. Yes, I read this in the hype build-up to the movie, but I can honestly say I enjoyed it.