Tag Archives: family dynamics

Read: Rich people problems: a novel by Kevin Kwan

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The final book in the trilogy, Rich people problems by Kevin Kwan achieves the same outrageous, glamorous, fabulous stratosphere of the first two novels. Kwan once again returns to Singapore to continue following the stories of Nick Young and his large and larger-than-life family. This time, his beloved grandmother Su Yi, owner of family estate Tyersall Park, is dying and everyone rushes home to be by her bedside.

Since the plot is so clever and complex, I won’t give away much about the novel. However, it really does follow the last two closely so the complete trilogy needs to be read. It wouldn’t be quite as enjoyable if read is a standalone book due to the backstory of all the characters, plot lines, and relationships that build up to the start of this final novel.

As with the first two in the trilogy, this third installment has the same satirical tone. It captures the glam and glitz of crazy rich Asians, from the posh old money Singaporeans to the brash new money Chinese mainlanders. Even among each group, there are reserved and flashy people as well. Kwan captures many nuances among the different types, motivations, and mentality of the über wealthy elites. He once again balances being bizarrely outrageous while still believable. For some reason, no matter what over-the-top occurrence happens, as a reader I was still completely bought into the characters and the story.

Rich people problems expands its breadth of main characters to encompass those who had previous lesser rolls and other books. While Nick and Rachel are still two of the main characters, Astrid and Charlie get more story time and another main focus surprisingly is on Kitty Pong–who has once again married up for even more fame and fortune. Quan deafly intertwined various storylines until they all match up and get resolved. However, he continues to use his true cliffhanger style, though sometimes irritating, in alternating chapters to different characters; sometimes I just wanted to keep reading a certain character’s storyline but that desire put aside as a reader, his novel is well-planned out just like the others.

Recommended?: Yes, for anyone who’s read the rest of the series. The other two are excellent so if you haven’t read them, start there first. There is so much back history between all the characters that plays into this novel that it only truly makes sense with all of the previous history. As it is the final book in the trilogy, all of the stories wrap up and some characters get what they truly deserve so a real pleasure comes from having read the first two in order to understand all the situations and relationships leading up to this final novel.

Rich people problems by Kevin Kwan book cover

My other Crazy rich trilogy reviews:
Book one: Crazy rich Asians
Book two: China rich girlfriend

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Read: China rich girlfriend: a novel by Kevin Kwan

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Crazy rich Asians have nothing on a China rich girlfriend. This sequel by Kevin Kwan is even more over-the-top, a feat that doesn’t seem possible, making it another fabulous time in Singapore, Hong Kong, and of course mainland China.

Rachel and Nick are back with another whirlwind adventure trip to the East. This time, they go to China but Nick’s family features fairly prominently as well in Singapore and Hong Kong. Drama seems to follow them despite their low-key attitudes, making this another fun and enjoyable read.

While the first novel focused on Nick’s family dynamics and their desire to remain private and frugally spend their wealth (or not), China rich girlfriend is all about the publicity-seeking, gigantic-spending, wealth-inheriting Chinese mainlanders of Nick and Rachel’s generation. The more bling the better! No price is too much.

Again, Kwan plots an extravagant story that has believable characters despite the grandiose setting and spending sprees. He is very deft at walking the fine line between ridiculously unbelievable and just crazy enough. Rachel and Nick head to China once again on a trip that has likely found her actual birthday father but his family is less than thrilled that she found them. As she tries to enjoy China, drama ensues with her stepmom and they try to make the best of the trip anyway.

Recommended?: Yes, especially if you’re a fan of the first novel or want a peak into how the opulent young mainlander Chinese unload their money without so much as blinking an eye. While not required to enjoy this sequel, it certainly makes more sense since you will know right away who everyone is and what their relationships are to each other. I can’t wait to read the third in the trilogy!

China rich girlfriend by Kevin Kwan book cover

Read: Crazy rich Asians: a novel by Kevin Kwan

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In need of a hilarious, ridiculous novel that will make your family seems tame by comparison? Crazy rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is a ruckus good-time that gives readers a peek inside the uber-rich Chinese families in Singapore, their drama, and lavish lifestyles that they take for granted.

While the book contains many characters, the main two are Nick Young and Rachel Chu. They met and have been dating for quite a while in New York City but are both Chinese who moved to the US. Rachel’s mom moved with her when she was just a child, so all she knows is life in the US. Nick, on the other hand, grew up in Singapore and has only recently lived in NYC. Nick decides to take Rachel home for the summer to Singapore, where they will first attend his best friend’s wedding and then enjoy Asia for the remainder of the trip. But, the best laid plans are never that simple. The whole novel revolves around the wedding and Nick’s large family, with Rachel unwittingly caught in the crosshairs of both.

Kwan deftly portrays family dynamics of all sort throughout the novel, adding even more intrigue to the main plot. Rachel, similar to the reader, has not be warned or prepped in anyway before meeting his family since Nick doesn’t see it as a big deal, although him cousin Astrid warned him that he should. Much of Nick’s family is concerned with lineage and wealthy, to varying degrees, and Rachel unfortunately has neither since she was raised by a single mom without knowing any other family. She and Nick are blindsided by particular members in his family when they realize the expectations. Power and control, especially of information, are also used freely to influence and coerce as family members and friends deem necessary to achieve their goals and personal gain. Everyone in Singapore seems to want to climb the social ladder and bask in societal attention except for Nick and Rachel.

This novel also showcases different versions of wealth and opinions of it, which adds more friction between some of the characters. Some downplay their wealth, spending very little of it and never discussing it, while others flaunt it with gaudy purchases and extravagances, flashing it any chance they can. Due to these disparities in opinion, Nick doesn’t realize just how personally wealthy he is, and stands to inherit, since he lived with his low-key grandmother and was other family members who flaunted their riches. This is partly also why he didn’t explain anything to Rachel because while he was rich, he never thought of himself or his immediate family as uber-rich. Among the multitude of characters, there are many subtle differences between them that highlight the variation in the rich and their opinions of themselves and others. I can’t begin to do it justice in this post but it’s a pleasure to read.

Crazy rich Asians is very funny and a fun read. From what little I have seen (my sister’s the real expert), The Real Housewives of… tv series is similar to this novel as it follows a group of rich women and documents their lavish lifestyles and heightened drama. Except that this novel takes everything to the max, can be incredibly over-the-top and ridiculous, putting even The Real Housewives to shame. It is mind-boggling how easily so many characters spend so much money like it is mundane. To not be uber-rich myself (unless there’s a massive windfall hiding out there for me), it can be absurd to the point of sheer amusement to even just have a glimpse of that reality. Again, Kwan showcases a range of elegant to tacky rich Asians throughout, so it’s not all cringe-worthy flaunting of wealth but it’s all compelling in the novel and propels the plot well.

Part of why I enjoyed the novel so much likely is the fact that I visited Singapore for a long weekend a few years ago. The descriptions of the locations, stores, and especially the food take me right back there. Now I’m craving Singaporean food from hawker stalls and thinking about another trip there sooner than later, and while we still have friends to visit, too!

 

Recommended?: Yes, especially if you want to be transported to hot, flavorful Singapore to briefly live alongside the crazy-rich Asians, and be thankful that they aren’t your family members. It’s certainly an adult novel, with some swear words and sexual references but no real sex scenes; mostly the family dynamics, manipulation, and commentary on money and marriage might not be as interesting or appreciated by younger, teen readers. I’m so glad it’s a trilogy and can’t wait to read the next–hopefully they live up to this first one!

Crazy rich Asians by Kevin Kwan book cover

Hard to tell in the photo but the cover design gives it a gold sparkly shine.

Read: The dinner: a novel by Herman Koch

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Dutch novelist Herman Koch’s The dinner: a novel is an eerie read that becomes more horrific over the course of the meal. While it’s true that the characters have dinner at a fancy restaurant, The dinner has as much to do with food as Die hard has to do with Christmas. It’s the backdrop but has little to do with the plot.

Since the novel was translated into English, I will give the benefit of the doubt that the occasional clunkiness of the writing is due to the translation. So, I will set aside discussing the writing itself. 

As far as the story goes, it starts off slow and the reader is trying to figure out what exactly is going on along with the main character Paul. Paul and his wife are meeting his brother and his wife for dinner but with his brother’s political aspirations, dinner is as much about image as the purpose of that dinner if not more. The reader realizes as the night progresses, along with Paul, that the agenda is to discuss the poor decisions and bad behavior of their teenage kids and how to deal with it. But they have anything but a frank discussion and from Paul’s memories it is clear that he and his brother have a rocky relationship.

SPOILERS TO FOLLOW

The manner in which the truth of what the sons did unfolds is presented in a meandering way. Small, unclear pieces begin to fill in and then as more pieces are add, the shock value only continues to increase until it surpasses any additional meaning and the reader becomes numb to the facts as the parents try to resume their typical lives as if nothing happened. The sons, it’s revealed, murdered a homeless woman sleeping in an ATM machine that they wanted to use; the verbally and physically abused her before killing her and it was filmed by a grainy security camera, as well as a cell phone by the brother’s adopted son who was now blackmailing the boys for money. While their actions themselves are horrific, it’s almost more shocking the extent that Paul, his wife, and his brother’s wife go to scheme and protect the boys working against the brother who wants to come clean so he can be elected Prime Minister. This family certainly has issues and they are well conveyed.

The entire novel consists of one evening of the four parents having dinner at the fancy restaurant. All additional scenes are Paul’s memories as he contemplates how they got to this point and his strained relationship with his brother. It makes sense in a way for the setting to be such a public venue where they are on display but it is odd as it’s revealed what the true topic of discussion, although it’s clear that no one wants to actually talk about what their sons did.

At times, it felt too much but I felt compelled to read on, but it continues to get more and more awful. Paul is violent, even towards his brother, and his son is following in his footsteps. This makes him a difficult first-person narriator to read. However, in the end, he pulls back and shows maturity in knowing that he must have restraint despite what others expect from him.

Recommended: For anyone who can’t get enough of shocking dramas and escalating situations. There’s lots of violence and physical abuse as the novel progresses, with quite descriptive passages, which aren’t for everyone. Most readers probably won’t enjoy this novel but it’s a creative idea so I will look into Koch’s other books at some point.

The dinner by Herman Koch cover image