I bought this book back in August 2018. It had been lying on my bookshelf for the longest of time and I never got round to reading it, till last week. The only reason I was able to pick it up and read the book was that I had somehow seen the movie on Netflix two weeks ago. When I had tried to read the book initially, I just wasn’t able to get through the first few chapters. Having seen the movie, I was able to create a brilliant visual in my mind while reading the book, so that helped me immensely to finish the book.
We are in New York, where Rachel Chu agrees to visit her boyfriend Nicholas Young’s family home in Singapore and to attend a family wedding, as well as spend quality time with Nicholas. Her world is turned upside down when she finds out they are traveling first class and then subsequently discovering that her boyfriend is actually the richest guy in Singapore. She experiences the rich and famous lifestyle in Singapore- complete with the bachelorette party, dinners, get togethers and the wedding.
So with all the guests attending the wedding, Rachel encounters a myriad of characters, some not so good (Nicholas’ mother and ex-girlfriend) and some sympathetic to her (Nicholas’ sister and cousin). Rachel is also lucky to have met her university friend, who is from a middle class background. As Rachel treads the path, discovering more and more about her boyfriend’s background, her relationship is tested the most by her boyfriend’s mother, Eleanor Young, who isn’t too fond of Rachel.
We also follow the lives of Nicholas’ family members- his mother, his sister, his cousin- and see that underneath the glittering facade of diamonds and money, there are some serious issues. Just like they, more money, more problems.
There is no doubt that the movie feels like an inferior version of the book. The book is certainly more detailed, especially with the thought process of Nicholas Young’s mother. We get to understand where she is coming from and why she resents Rachel so much. In the movie, this is touched upon and it feels cliched. The book allows the characters to flourish and they have depth to them. I think perhaps for sake of brevity, they couldn’t have explored all the characters in depth in the movie.
There is a lot of fun in reading about the excessive lifestyle of the Young’s family- whether they shopping, dining, flying in helicopters or merely hanging out at their palatial home. However, below the glossy surface, there actually lies a very human story of family relationships, the importance of elders, the benefit of maintaining age old traditions and most importantly, maintaining respect for each other. This is where the books makes the biggest impact.
Rachel acts as someone who is not fazed by the money and flashy lifestyle, as she is comfortable with who she is (we get an interesting backstory about her mother, and ultimtely her father). She stands on her own two feet, especially when it comes to talking to Eleanor Young. These two women battle it out with their ideas of traditions and relationships.
The book does fall into the category of a chick-lit. Most of the reviews praising the books are from female writers so perhaps the book is aimed towards the female demographic. I don’t think I would have read the book had I not seen the movie. That doesn’t take away how insanely successful the book and movie have become, so much so, there are two sequels to the book: China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems. I don’t think I will be reading those books myself. Crazy Rich Asians was a good one time read for me.