“Crazy Rich Asians”: The book(s)

crazyrichasians1

Given the present ubiquity of reviews and commentary on “Crazy Rich Asians”, it’s worth remembering that the hit film was once a (hit) book, and the first of a trilogy. Here are our reviews, plus a review of a book by an entirely different author that preceded Crazy Rich Asians and presciently hinted at what was to come.

 

Crazy Rich Asians Kevin Kwan (Doubleday Books, June 2013)
Crazy Rich Asians Kevin Kwan (Doubleday Books, June 2013)

Crazy Rich Asians

 

A book with a title as brash as Crazy Rich Asians is just asking to be picked up and read. The ascent of Asian money is all too real, yet at the same time, one can’t help but ask where such money came from – and who these people are. And thanks to Kevin Kwan’s debut novel, we can enter into this world of intrigue.

 

China Rich Girlfriend Kevin Kwan (Doubleday, June 2015)
China Rich Girlfriend Kevin Kwan (Doubleday, June 2015)

China Rich Girlfriend

 

The blurb describes China Rich Girlfriend as an uproarious comedy of manners, but it’s more a comedy of consumerism, as is perhaps hinted in the title itself, since it uses China as a superlative — not just rich, but China rich.

 

Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan (Doubleday, May 2017)
Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan (Doubleday, May 2017)

Rich People Problems

 

Rich People Problems is well and briskly written. But Kwan never misses a chance to mention a high-end brand you’ll only have heard of if you’re in with the in crowd, or to describe an outfit by some designer far too exclusive for the mere mass luxury market, so it sometimes feels as if you’re trapped between the pages of a glossy lifestyle magazine, and not reading a novel.

 

Our Man in China, Ming Liu (Authorhouse, November 2012)
Our Man in China, Ming Liu (Authorhouse, November 2012)

There was a book that preceded these: the 2012 Our Man in China by Ming Liu.

 

Anyone remotely related with the book business in East Asia will have come across the “expat novel”. This features a western foreigner, almost always white, almost always male, engaging, if that is the right world, the brave new worlds of Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok or, increasingly, Shanghai… They’re not all bad—the genre has a respectable pedigree, including Paul Theroux’s Saint Jack, for example—yet a great many are forgettable, albeit sometimes popular among other expats… Our Man in China turns the genre on its head. The author, Ming Liu, is Chinese (by descent, at any rate) and a woman. The protagonists are expats, but aren’t Caucasian… Liu seems to have traveled close enough to these circles to have observed them. Readers younger and more party-prone than I will have to judge whether Liu has got the zeitgeist right, but it seems—making allowances for some undoubted hyperbole—not beyond belief.