Crazy Rich Asians offers refreshing nouveau voyeurism to readers who long ago burned out on American and English aspirational fantasies. Mr. Kwan either knows, or does a good job of pretending to know, how the very rich of Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai show off their lucre ... Mr. Kwan neither has nor wants a light touch ... Mr. Kwan knows how to deliver guilty pleasures. He keeps the repartee nicely outrageous, the excess wretched and the details wickedly delectable.
This world of absurdly over-the-top wealth is the playground of the characters in Kevin Kwan's breathless, high-speed romp through the lives of a group of megarich Asians ... The cast of gloriously overblown characters is never-ending in its capacity to pile excess upon excess ... It's precisely this gleefully camp humor that saves the novel from being a roll call of predictable characters who flirt outrageously with Mills & Boon cliche ... The expository nature of the novel is no more evident than in the copious footnotes, whose chirpy humor can't disguise their earnestness in explaining Malay honorific titles or Hokkien swear words.
...[a] rollicking, often-riotous debut novel ... As a way of educating the reader, Kwan provides myriad footnotes, which offer translations of Cantonese, Hokkien, and Mandarin words, as well as further explanations of the high-end culture and society. The author’s wit adroitly penetrates the fine print ... One of the few drawbacks of the narrative is the deliberate litany of name-dropping and designer brands, which grows a little wearisome. That said, with each chapter, Kwan skillfully moves the narrative forward with escalating tension ... Crazy Rich Asians is an entertaining, engrossing novel. Kwan certainly knows how to tell a lively, generous story of shallow extravagance and human devotion.
The reader almost needs an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of who thinks what of whom, and why. Crazy Rich even offers a playful riff on the trope of all Asians being good at math ... It's the sort of lighting-quick computations I haven't seen since the SATs ... The great irony – and pleasure – of Crazy Rich Asians is that those being stereotyped stereotype right back. Call it a reversal of the collective gaze. Yet for all the stereotypes it exposes then skewers, there are others peddled so earnestly that the reader can't help but wonder at Kwan's agenda ... But ultimately, novels like Kwan's can be taken as (small) signs of progress – they expand our portfolio of how Asians are perceived in the media. There's also something refreshing about this appropriation of self-representation.
Kwan, obviously having too good a time writing the book, went on for over 500 pages and one had to trudge wearily along ... The blurbs set the framework for how this book should be read: It’s both fun and excessive...but it’s also meant to be a commentary on this society, apparently, judging by the comparisons to Wharton, or Waugh, or Austen ... What the novel lacks, however, is any sort of interiority or contradiction, or any attempt to wrestle with the implications of class society and the tensions between the rich and, well, the rest. At its heart, Crazy Rich Asians is a sentimental novel, and it holds the elites up as an example ... If you really want mindless reading, you can’t go wrong with Crazy Rich Asians. Kwan is not a terrible writer, if entertainment is all you hope to get out of your reading material; he does have a flair for a witty turn of phrase, on occasion, and the paper-thin shallow characters are so forgettable you could gladly put it down and put the book out of your mind in an instant if you needed to focus your attention on something else, like real life.
Jane Austen, or maybe Edith Wharton, goes to Singapore, turning in this lively, entertaining novel of manners ... It’s Less Than Zero without all the coke ... A diverse set of characters and a light, unstrained touch move Kwan’s story along ... An elegant comedy and an auspicious debut.
Kwan’s debut novel is a fun, over-the-top romp through the unbelievable world of the Asian jet set ... A witty tongue-in-cheek frolic about what it means to be from really old money and what it’s like to be crazy rich.