BOOK REVIEW - The Crazy Rich Trilogy More Than Just A Romantic Comedy
It was the year 2016. I was driving to work in the early morning and listening to Johara on Era FM. One of the presenters, Johan, announced that Malaysian TV Host, Henry Golding had just been offered to star as a lead role in a Hollywood-Asian film titled Crazy Rich Asians (CRA). As a fan of Henry Golding, my heart says ‘Wow!” Johan also mentioned that CRA is based on a novel of the same title written by Kevin Kwan. CRA is story about Asian/oriental elite society in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and China. The way Johan described CRA was so interesting that it made me grab and read the novel.
During lunch break on the same day, I went to MPH Bookstore to buy the novel. It was then that I found out that CRA is a trilogy. The Crazy Rich (CR) trilogy includes Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend (CRG), and Rich People Problems (RPP). I just finished reading the whole trilogy last week. To me the Crazy Rich trilogy is awesome and fantastic. I loved and enjoyed reading the 3 novels, and now I would like to share my review and opinion on the Crazy Rich trilogy.
Before I start my review on CR trilogy, let me share you a brief on the intelligent and knowledgeable author – Kevin Kwan. Kevin Kwan is a Singaporean author who resides in Manhattan, New York. Kwan obtained his first degree in creative writing from the University of Houston. He then moved to New York to pursue a BFA at Parsons School of Design. Kwan began his career in New York working for Martha Stewart Living, Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, and M&CO. In 2000, Kwan established his own creative studio and specialized in producing high profile visual projects for New York Times, the Museum of Modern Art, Rockwell Group, and Ted.com. I believe Kwan’s various experiences make him creative, artistic, and knowledgeable in creative writing.
The first novel from the Crazy Rich trilogy, Crazy Rich Asians was published in 2013. The novel was inspired by Kwan’s childhood days in Singapore. The second chapter in CRA was developed from Kwan’s poem “Singapore Bible Study”. The poem is actually a parody and describes oriental elite ladies activities. The bible study group is just like a morning coffee or kedai kopi session to gossip and show off new expensive glamorous jewelries. CRA became a success and one of the best selling novels in the publishing industry. CRA has been translated to 12 different languages, and adapted to a movie. The success of CRA also inspired Kwan to write the sequel – China Rich Girlfriend (published in 2015) and Rich People Problems (the third and final trilogy, published in 2017).
To me, Rich People Problems (RPP) is the best among the 3 novels. RPP tells us everything that has been going on in Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend. In RPP it makes sense why Nick’s grandmother –Shang Su Yi/Ah Ma was against his marriage to Rachel. Su Yi also had an arranged marriage and she didn’t love her husband – Sir James Young when she first got married to him. She was having a passionate wartime romance with Prince Jirasit (Thailand royalty). After World War II ended, Su Yi reunited with her lover in Bangkok and got pregnant (Auntie Catherine was Su Yi’s illegitimate child with Prince Jirasit). Prince Jirasit was also married to another woman. He couldn’t leave his wife for Su Yi. Plus he was a Prince and too bound to all the family politics. Su Yi was given 2 choices. First choice, she could leave her husband and live as a single mother with an illegitimate child and being cast out of society. The second choice, Su Yi could return to her husband, tell him the truth, and beg for his forgiveness to take her back. She went for the second choice. Sir James Young knew that Su Yi didn’t love him. However, he still wanted to win her heart. He forgave her and took her back in his life. He showed Su Yi his love and kindness. Sir James Young even treated Auntie Catherine as his own child that made Nick thought his Aunt Catherine was his grandfather’s favorite. Su Yi then felt in love with Sir James Young. Su Yi’s past experience made her believed that her father (Shang Loong Ma) had been right to choose Sir James Young for her, and she should have obeyed his wishes all along. That’s why she felt the same for Nick. Plus Rachel was an illegitimate child. Rachel’s background brought Su Yi back to her past fears and guilt. After all Nick was Su Yi’s favorite grandson and the one she chose to inherit the family wealth.
When I first read Crazy Rich Asians, I disliked Shang Su Yi’s character. To me Su Yi was a cruel rich lady similar to Nyonya Mansur in Ibu Mertuaku (a Malaysian classic P.Ramlee movie). I used to think that Su Yi was a selfish old woman who thought she leaved in a perfect world. She could be a spoiled girl during her youth days. But in the end of Rich People Problems, I found that Su Yi was not just a rich spoiled girl. She was more than just an aristocrat and a pretty face. Su Yi was a woman of intelligence, integrity, a heart of gold, and someone I wish and working hard to be like. I can say that Su Yi is my favorite character in this Crazy Rich trilogy. Su Yi was an intelligent officer/spy working for the British India Office (the Indian branch of the War Office). The War Office was a Department of The British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army and was formed in 1857. The War Office was dissolved in 1964 and transferred to the Ministry of Defence. Reading Rich People Problems informed me that the Shang family was not just wealthy people. They were people with a heart of gold. I was impressed at the end of the book to find that the Shang family made Tyersall Park (the Shang family house/palace) a safe haven for British and Australian officers during the World War II. Tyersall Park was also a place for secret high-level meetings, a safe house, and a sort of clandestine road for all the operatives passing from Malaysia through Singapore, trying to get to safety to Indonesia and Australia.
To me the Crazy Rich trilogy is not just romantic comedy. It’s a romance novel packed with orientalism, culture, politics, economy, business, international relations, diplomacy, intelligence, and a touch of espionage. The Crazy Rich trilogy has a different story line compared to other romance novels I’ve read. The story line has much suspense, unpredictability and similar to spy thriller novels. I like Kevin Kwan’s writing style in that he is clear and informative. Reading the Crazy Rich trilogy gives me knowledge on oriental elite society and culture, politics, how the ASEAN Chinese perceived the PRC (People from the Republic of China) and how the Hong Kongers perceived the PRC and ASEAN Chinese. Kwan’s writing also makes it easy for me to walk in each character’s shoes. When I first read Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, I also disliked Astrid Leong. I think Astrid’s love triangle story with her ex-lover Charlie Wu and husband Michael Teo was very annoying. But at the end of Rich People Problems, I understand that Astrid was a depressed woman who hardly had her dreams come true although she lived her life like a fairy tale princess. Astrid was controlled by her parents most of her life and I am happy with the decision that she made at the end of RPP.
I also like the moral values that Kevin Kwan underpins in his novels. The Crazy Rich trilogy is also about integrity and forgiveness. After reading the whole trilogy, I understand why Su Yi chose and favor Nick Young among all her grandchildren. It is not because Nick was the son of Philip Young (Nick’s father was Su Yi’s only son. Others were daughters. This is the first thing I had in mind why Nick was Su Yi’s favorite), but it’s because Nick resembled a lot of his grandfather –Sir James Young. He was intelligent, bright, and a man of integrity. Su Yi was a very intelligent woman- she saw right in everyone. Most of the characters in the Crazy Rich trilogy are forgiving people. Su Yi forgave Nick for obeying her wishes of not marrying Rachel and left her for five years, Rachel forgave Su Yi for treating her badly in CRA. Rachel also forgave Colette Bing for trying to poison her in CRG.
Although it was not stated in RPP or any of the trilogies, I am sure that Nick’s cousin, Alistair Cheng forgave his gold digging ex-girlfriend- Kitty Pong. I am very pleased that Kitty decided to join Nick, Alistair, and their partners as private investors in rebuilding Tyersall Park. And as for Alistair Cheng, I don’t think that he is the black sheep of the Cheng family and a clueless boy. I always see Alistair character as an empath. Empath are usually kind hearted and intelligent people. Like Nick, Alistair also has integrity in him and I think that’s why Su Yi left him some shares in Tyersall Park.
Overall, I rate the Crazy Rich trilogy 10/10. I think the trilogy is brilliant. For those who haven’t read the Crazy Rich trilogy, I recommend you to go to your nearest bookstore now and purchase these 3 novels. I am now excited for China Rich Girlfriend movie. According to one Hollywood website the movie will be in cinema in 2020. Yay! I also like most of the actor and actresses that Kevin Kwan chose for CRA film. I did background check on most of the stars and I found out that most of them are intelligent and knowledgeable people just like Kevin Kwan himself.
Last but not least, I wish Kevin Kwan the best of luck in his writing career and I hope he will produce more novels like the Crazy Rich trilogy soon.
Fadima Mooneira ^_^
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