Rich People Problems

by Kevin Kwan


“You’re my son—I’ve watched your nannies change your diapers,”

“Maybe if Mum behaves herself, she can meet our baby at age eighteen.”

This was a worthy conclusion to the trilogy in many ways. I’m so glad Astrid and Nick’s final meeting with Ah Ma went so well and they were on time. Loved the reading of the will. I was on the edge of my seat. Eddie’s meltdown after he only got a set of cuff-links was a fitting close to his story. I Loved Ah Ma’s wisdom and cleverness in her terms of the will. I was fascinated by the glimpses into Su Yi’s bravery and importance in WWII. We knew James Young was a great man from the first book, now we know his greatness was matched by his wife. I’d read that book! Characters we thought we knew turned out to be more complex than we may have thought. In good ways and bad ways. I liked the hints of mysteries and secrets and the final reveals. I thought that seeing the family from the servant’s perspective was a good addition. I liked that Ah Ma’s death was in the middle of the book, instead of the end. I liked that non-obvious choice. It made me anxious and curious to read what else was to come.

There are reasons why this didn’t quite make 5 stars, like the other two. I felt that the fate of Collette Bing was contrived, weak, and tacked on. I would have liked a confrontation between her and Kitty. Or her bad end to be a result of her bad actions. I was confused by Collette. We know that she is still the mean schemer when it came to Carlton anyway. But what about her nice husband, and the orangutans? Was that sincere? What happened to Carlton and Rachel’s father? No appearance at all? I was sure he was going to be instrumental in helping Nick and Rachel with Tyersall Park. It would have only made sense. Carlton’s reconciliation with Scheherazade was too easy, considering what she learned about his past. Although most the characters were disposed of in a satisfactory way, in many cases it was a little too pat. I didn’t mind the unconcluded stories in the first two, but I hoped that the 3rd one would have been stronger in the wrap up. **4.5 stars** 

December 17, 2018

China Rich Girlfriend

by Kevin Kwan

Almost just as good as Crazy Rich AsiansChina Rich Girlfriend really kicks it up about 10 notches as far as wealth and conspicuous consumption. I actually had to take a break, because it was so much, that I almost felt sick to my stomach. In CRA, Nick’s family is rich, yes, but they are so private, so unconcerned with public image and perception, so exclusive. The wealth that Rachel and Nick encounter in this book is so over the top, so shallow and empty, that the contrast is stark. Think Prince William and Harry vs. The Kardashians. Only of course the groups in this book are so much richer. A one or two billion dollar fortune is considered insignificant money. One of the wealthiest girls that Rachel meets is Collete Bing who does a fashion blog with 35 million followers for fun. She meets Astrid, one of our favorite characters in Nick’s family. Of course Collette has no idea who Astrid is, because “You won’t ever find the Leongs on any list because they are far too smart and far too discreet to be visible“, but she perceptively realizes that there is something special about her and wants to post some photos on her social media feeds.

Now, I just need some caption info. I recognize your shoes and your handbag, of course, and the bracelets are Lalaounis—” “Actually, they’re not,” Astrid interrupted. “Oh. Who did them?” “They’re Etruscan.” “I know, but who designed them?” “I have no idea. They were made in 650 BC.” Colette stared in wonder at the museum artifacts dangling so casually on Astrid’s wrists. Now she wanted some herself. “Okay then, most important, tell me which genius designed your fabulous dress. It’s Josep Font, isn’t it?” “Oh, this? I bought it today at Zara.” For the rest of her life, Roxanne would never forget the look on Colette’s face.

There is no real romance. Nick and Rachel are blissfully happy with a solid relationship.
This is a story about family drama. Rachel’s newly discovered father and his family are the source of major conflict, secrets, and lies, including a threat of arrest for attempted murder. Astrid’s stupid husband is making her increasingly unhappy. How long will she put up with him? The humor and satire remain in tact, and some very satisfactory servings of some much needed justice to several characters are included near the end. One, courtesy of our ever patient and levelheaded Rachel. She finally looses her temper and it is a sight to behold!
A few threads are satisfactorily closed (we think) at the end of this book, and a lot more really interesting ones left open to be resolved in the third and last book in the series. **5 stars out of 5**

November 19, 2018


Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan

“What should I have told you?” Nick asked, genuinely perplexed. “All this,” Rachel cried, waving her hands around at the opulent bedroom they were standing in. “The fact that there’s an army of Gurkhas with dogs protecting your grandmother while she sleeps, the fact that you grew up in friggin’ Downton Abbey, the fact that your best friend was throwing the most expensive wedding in the history of civilization! You should have told me about your family, about your friends, about your life here, so I could at least know what I was getting myself into.” Nick sank onto the chaise lounge, sighing wearily. “Astrid did try to warn me to prepare you, but I was so sure that you’d feel right at home when you got here.

It’s not that the family of our hero, Nick, is so rich. It is that they are so elite, so rarefied, and, as an afterthought, so fabulously and insanely wealthy. But you have to be more than rich to enter their exalted world. Their family home is on a 69 acre estate in the middle of over populated Singapore where property goes for $2000.00 a square foot. It’s equivalent to a family home situated on acreage in the middle of Central Park in Manhattan. And it is that this property does not even exist according to Google Maps. (“this crowd made Upper East Side girls look like Mennonites.”) Our heroine, Rachael’s, best friend’s father, a wealthy, connected, and successful property developer, but who came from humble beginnings, had never heard of the family. Such is their power to protect their privacy and exclusivity. His quest to get the scoop on who his daughter’s friend’s fiancé really is leads to one of the highlights of the book: his meeting with his old wise friend Dr. Goh. It is a revelation for him, and for the reader.

The book is constructed so as to set up the anticipation of the culture and personal clash between ordinary Chinese American Rachael and Her boyfriend Nick’s family from the very beginning. From the first it is established that Nick is mishandling the whole situation and naively setting his beloved Rachael up for embarrassment and humiliation. I was angry and incredulous over his stupidity. Would he see the light? Will he redeem himself?

Thumbprint sketches of dozens of characters throughout the book are so intriguing that we look forward to their next appearance in the story. What havoc will they wreak? Or will they become or continue to be a support and ally of Rachael or Nick? There are so many characters that some are necessarily left hanging, hopefully to be picked up again in one of the subsequent books in the series. The Family Tree was definitely needed and I had to refer to it often.

But to me, one of the primary reasons this book succeeds is because of Rachael. She never tries to be anything other than what she is: a middle class highly educated nice woman who is proud of her own history and accomplishments. She remains down to earth and poised in the face of some very stiff challenges, She navigates some very choppy waters and at least one tsunami. When she is thrown for a loop, it has little to do with the vicious behavior on the part of some of Nick’s family and friends. And yes, there are some twists and double twists. The writers voice is humorous and there are some funny if eye-rollingly bizarre scenes. Imagine a muggle sent to Hogwarts by mistake. I found this book delightful but with some sharp edges and I cant wait to read the second in the series.**5 out of 5 stars**

October 9, 2018