When I find an author I really like, I’m sure to follow the progress of new books. Enter Kevin Kwan—I loved his Crazy Rich Asians so much that as soon as I heard about his follow up (China Rich Girlfriend) I knew I needed to read it—and boy, was it worth the read. Special thanks to Doubleday for getting me an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
Rachel cannot wait to marry Nick. But, marrying into his family is another story. The Youngs, specifically Nick’s mother, Eleanor, is decidedly crazy and concerned that this ABC (American Born Chinese) is not good enough for her perfect son, especially considering Rachel has been raised by a single mother. The Youngs are rich, and are very entrenched into Hong Kong society. What will the neighbors think? In this comedy of social climbing, Eleanor is practically the normal one! The Young family and their extended family are back, and Kwan does his best to chronicle their various upward and downward movements through the ‘decent’-driven world of the lavishly rich in Hong Kong.
Kwan’s style is the same as found in Crazy Rich Asians—it is fun, and full of the most descriptive terms I have heard in a very long time to describe characters. His style is similar to that of Lisa Lutz, but with enough footnotes (that are NOT boring to read) to bring even the most mainland non-China reader up to speed. With an ensemble cast, it is hard to do what Kevin has done in China Rich Girlfriend, and that’s give each of his characters their fifteen minutes, broken up into digestible pieces and fitting within the concurrent storyline. Overall, it is one of the best books I have read in 2015.
Rachel is a great character. I felt for her throughout the novel—she just wanted to marry Nick and do so by taking the path of least resistance. While she would be almost any mother’s dream (a good job, a strong character and a sense of self that rivals many women of her age), Eleanor is completely against her because of her lack of social standing and her lack of a father. But Eleanor’s scheming suddenly changes that in a BIG way. Suddenly, Rachel has a father (confirmed by her mother) and she is thrust into the social scene of Hong Kong whether she wants to or not.
Kwan’s dead-on portrayal of marriages in trouble, young rich kids getting into trouble and an adult film actress turned to actress are enjoyable and seem effortless. In China Rich Girlfriend, Kevin Kwan gives us an insiders look into the very world only a select few ever enjoy. It’s a great summer read, or a read for anyone who might seem interested in elevated comedies of manners/errors or even those who find themselves checking out tmz.com (or it’s Hong Kong equivalent) throughout the day.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan will be available on June 16, 2015. Published by Doubleday, you can find it in hardcover, audiobook and ebook from your favorite retailer on that day.