Crazy Rich Asians

- Kevin Kwan

Goodreads Book Blurb:

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Series / Genres:

My Review:

enjoyable/easy to read:
3/5
3.5 stars

I can appreciate the role Crazy Rich Asians played in ushering in a new wave of representation in popular culture with both the book and the movie adaptation. However, I believe that the book does better than the movie in this respect – where the book feels like a contemporary romance with a faithful portrayal of an underrepresented culture, the movie feels more like a mediocre chick flick with Asian casting.

I liked the parts of the book about Singapore more than anything about Nick and Rachel’s relationship. Nick is a terrible boyfriend – he seems to take every opportunity to throw Rachel to the wolves with no preparation or warning. And Rachel never stood up for herself or let him know how terribly everyone was treating her. I know this whole series is about their relationship, but they seem like a terrible match. They’re either too immature to have honest conversations with each other, or they just don’t care enough about each other to pay attention to what’s going on. But whenever the narrative focused on the setting instead of the people, I was totally enthralled. I’ve never been to Singapore, but this book made me miss travelling so much (thanks, COVID).

All of the characters are probably at least three times crazier than they need to be. It makes for an incredibly eclectic cast, and I really couldn’t predict what anyone would do in any situation, especially because there’s a lot of prejudice and racism flung around casually like gossip. I don’t know if this was an attempt to be honest or an effort to be shocking, but it was pretty confronting and pulled me out of the narrative at times.

I am thankful for the trend of increased representation that Crazy Rich Asians and other books like it have ushered in. I (obviously) love to read, and that experience is only improved with the inclusion of different cultures, countries, races, and traditions. Representation is important, not just because everyone deserves to see themselves in popular culture, but because it diversifies the reader’s experience and expands their worldview. Do I wish Crazy Rich Asians relied less on the usual contemporary romance tropes and the characters were less rude and judgmental? Of course. But through reading, I got to experience an entirely different world and culture from my own, which was interesting and worthwhile.

For anyone interested, I put together a spoiler list below of the major differences (that I noticed) between the book and the movie adaptation:
⦿ In the movie, Nick gives Rachel a heads up about his family and their money on the flight to Singapore. It’s not a full disclosure, but it’s certainly more of a warning than she gets in the book.
⦿ On top of the above heads up, when Rachel visits Peik Lin in the movie, she knows right away who Nick is and makes sure Rachel is much more prepared to meet his family than she is in the book.
⦿ With that in mind, I didn’t like that Nick and Astrid were so infamous in the movie. It seemed much more realistic that their level of wealth protected them from extreme fame and notoriety in the book. Especially since a significant storyline moving forward is that Astrid and her family avoid media interest at all costs, it didn’t make sense that everyone recognised her whenever she went somewhere in the movie.
⦿ In the movie, Nick’s father is still active in his work, while in the book, he’s virtually retired in Sydney and acts as a relaxed counterpart to the craziness of Nick’s mother.
⦿ One of the weirdest changes in the movie was how chummy Michael and Nick were.
⦿ Colin and Araminta were fairly open (with Nick) about their anxiety/mental health issues, which were written entirely out of the movie. They were much more interesting characters in the book because of this, and I wish it was in the movie, too.
⦿ This one was probably a good call, though: the dogfighting and casino part of the bachelor party in the book wasn’t in the movie. Their escape from the bachelor party was different too – not just in execution but also in the destination.
⦿ Mehmet was one of my favourite of Nick’s friends, but he doesn’t seem to exist in the movie.
⦿ I think the dumplings scene in the movie was a good addition to the story, but it was much more sentimental than anything that would have taken place in the book.
⦿ So many differences in the actual wedding, starting with the change in venue (no private island for the wedding reception in the movie)
⦿ In the movie, Nick’s mother confronted Rachel about her background at the wedding, which seems pretty trashy and unlikely considering their love of status and privacy. She also had way too much information about Rachel’s mother and her marriage/affair/lineage. There’s no way any private investigator would have been able to get all of that information.
⦿ Another missing character from the book: I kept waiting for Charlie to show up at the wedding to steal Astrid away and discover the truth about her husband. I’m starting to feel like the scriptwriter cut out all my favourite characters on purpose…
⦿ The Mahjong scene in the movie was another totally new scene
⦿ By far the best difference in the movie was Astrid standing up to Michael. I wish this had happened in the book. Also, the affair being an affair was a much less convoluted choice than what happened in the book.
⦿ Movie Eleanor is a massive softie, while book Eleanor is a massive bitch. The two have no similarities and are barely related to one another.
⦿ Underneath it all, the book and the movie tell the same story but the movie cut out a lot of the trips, deception, and twists that made the book more interesting. The movie covered a much shorter time while the book was more spread out with a bigger spotlight on food, fashion, and gossip. I think this is why the movie felt more like a copy & paste chick flick, and the book, while not my favourite contemporary romance, was a great window into this (pretty crazy) world.

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