Rachel Chu is tossed unceremoniously into the glamorous, and vicious, world of her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, when he invites her to Singapore for the summer to meet his crazy rich family.
This was such a fun book. The movie really doesn’t do the story justice. I enjoyed the frivolity of the crazy rich while they threw ridiculous amounts of money at ridiculous things. Like the opening scene when we meet a very young Nick and his family. After experiencing racism in a high-end hotel and turned away despite their reservation, the family simply buys the hotel to solve the problem. Then there is Nick’s cousin, Astrid, who has a shopping spree at the jewelers when she is depressed about her husband’s possible adultery. She drops a couple million dollars on things she doesn’t even like! Kevin Kwan did an excellent job of setting up the extravagant and eccentric world the absurdly wealthy characters inhabit using Rachel’s normal average New York life to create a stark comparison.
Poor Rachel. Nick doesn’t give her any preparation regarding who his family is before their trip. She is dumped into this glittering world and pretty well forced to fend for herself against vicious rumors, illicit gossip, accusations of being a gold digger, people who prize extravagant lineages that she herself doesn’t possess and are more than happy to brag about it. It’s almost like she is transported back to the time of royalty and their obsession with pure bloodlines and excellent family standings. Her reaction to all this is graceful, but also very believable. As a character, she is very honest and true to herself. She has no problem correcting people about who she is when they assume she is someone more impressive than she is. Nick is kind of hopelessly naive. His not talking to Rachel about who is family is a completely innocent thing. He was raised to never speak of his family or his wealth, and so honestly doesn’t think to warn Rachel. He is also fully unaware of the posturing and politicking that goes on under the surface of his family’s every action. Like Rachel, we find that we can’t even really be mad at him for the situation he puts Rachel in. The subtle yet ruthless subterfuge of the family to preserve their sense of worth and obsession with “good” family backgrounds is riveting. Every move Nick’s mother makes is calculating and clever.
This was a fascinating look into Asian culture, morals and values. Like every fiction book, most of it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But the glimpse into the traditions, history, and values felt authentic and helped me to better understand how culture motivates the decisions, actions, and reactions of the characters. Kevin Kwan also provides footnotes to help the reader easily understand words and phrases, and cultural references that might otherwise go right over the readers head.
Overall this was a book was witty and clever, but also light and fun. If you haven’t yet, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to make this next on your TBR list.