Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan, Review: Absurdly comic
Rich People Problems is Book 3 in Kevin Kwan’s international bestselling Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy.
Rich People Problems Synopsis
When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside—but he’s not alone. The entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe to stake claim on their matriarch’s massive fortune. With each family member vying to inherit Tyersall Park—a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore—Nicholas’s childhood home turns into a hotbed of speculation and sabotage.
As her relatives fight over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by her ex-husband—a man hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to China’s second richest man, billionaire Jack Bing, still feels second best next to her new step-daughter, famous fashionista Colette Bing.
A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a kidnapping at Hong Kong’s most elite private school to a surprise marriage proposal at an Indian palace, caught on camera by the telephoto lenses of paparazzi, Kevin Kwan’s hilarious, gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets of Asia’s most privileged families and their rich people problems.
(DoubleDay, Penguin Random House)
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I had not read the first two titles in this series, Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, but that did not hamper my enjoyment of Rich People Problems. Having visited some of the novel’s Asian settings and loving satirical humour, this absurdist family saga was right up my alley.
The scale of wealth bandied about by the characters is staggering, and part of the fascination and escapism. Although I’d heard these novels were inspired by the author’s childhood experiences, I still assumed circumstances had been significantly exaggerated for comic effect. Could people really be that blasé about such things?
Apparently they can. When Kevin Kwan spoke about his writing journey at the recent Brisbane Writers Festival, the point he kept coming back to was that he never actually set out to write a comedy… That many things he’d witnessed during his childhood were just so absurd that they seemed humorous on retelling to a western audience. He explained that many of the people that inspired characters in these novels were not necessarily upset by their publication; they simply didn’t see what people found so funny.
He was quick to remind the festival audience that very serious topics are also tackled within the trilogy.
Nick shook his head. “It amazes me that there’s still such a huge stigma about mental illness here.”
‘Stigma’ implies that something exists but society is prejudiced against it. Here, everyone’s in denial that it even exists!”
Depth of characterization
The characters in Rich People Problems are multi-dimensional, they grow and develop as they work through life challenges; some unusual, but many common to us all. Several see their family member’s behaviour for what it is and struggle to balance familial loyalties and obligation with their desire to set out on their own path in life… seeking greater meaning and genuine happiness.
The quality of the stone isn’t perfect, but when I wore it, it always reminded me of how life can surprise you. Sometimes, the thing that at first appears flawed can end up being the most perfect thing in the world for you.”
Humour is a very individual thing. A reader’s response to this novel will depend on their familiarity with Asian cultures and the customs of the extremely wealthy. Foodies will delight in the mouth-watering descriptions of Asian cuisine and fashionistas will revel in the couture.
With characters to laugh at, but more that you will laugh with, Rich People Problems is a highly enjoyable weekend read.
The first title in the trilogy Crazy Rich Asians will soon be a major motion picture starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Gemma Chan. This is an adaptation I look forward to watching…
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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Genre: Drama, Humour, Romance, ChickLit
To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters / The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde / Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh / Under the Net by Iris Murdoch / Mammoth by Chris Flynn
About the Author, Kevin Kwan
Kevin Kwan is also the author of the international bestsellers Crazy Rich Asians, soon to be a major motion picture, and China Rich Girlfriend. Rich People Problems is the third title in the trilogy. Born in Singapore, he has called New York’s West Village home since 1995. Visit his website and connect with him on Facebook or on Twitter.
Source: Talks at Google
Kevin Kwan also talked to Vanity Fair about finishing the trilogy, and the Crazy Rich Asians movie.