MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. The title of Kevin Kwan's new novel may say it all. It's called "Crazy Rich Asians," and reviewer Tash Aw calls it a breathless tsunami of dazzling soirees and weekends on private islands.
TASH AW, BYLINE: OK, so what sets this whole thing off? Nicholas Young, heir to a massive, old-money fortune, has returned to Singapore for his best friend's wedding. He's Oxford-educated and super eligible, right? Wrong because - surprise - he's brought his Chinese-American girlfriend with him. Poor Rachel; her appearance provokes more jealousy and bullying than this tiny republic has ever seen.
And it doesn't help that everyone she meets in Singapore is rich and beautiful. They buy couture collections before the clothes hit the runway. Their private jets have yoga studios. Kwan's characters flirt with cliche; lines like: (Reading) He was just so startlingly attractive with his stubble and the rumpled shirt.
But the book is saved by its gleeful, campy humor - a bird that pecks at a Damien Hirst painting, or the wedding dance to Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," with alternating verses in English and Mandarin.
If you were wondering about the vagueness of the title's Asians, it's not an accident. Kwan is trying to show the Chinese Diaspora in all of its nuances - the difference between old Nanyang and contemporary China; the snobbery of Asians who speak English with British accents; the fact that Singaporeans are considered uptight by other Chinese. You might be tempted to read this novel as a commentary on the rampant materialism taking over Asia, or a text on Asian post-colonial revenge; or point out that it's impossible to double major at Oxford.
But my darling, such questions are simply not relevant. All you need to know is that Charlie Wu, of the tech billionaire fortune, is in love with Astrid, the granddaughter of Shang Su Yi, who is unhappy that her grandson Nicholas is not dating the Rachel Chu of the Taipei Plastics Chus. But they are all going to the wedding of Araminta Lee, of the luxury hotel Lees; and Colin Khoo, of the Khoo Teck Fong fortune; and some big secrets are about to be revealed.
SIEGEL: The novel, by Kevin Kwan, is called "Crazy Rich Asians." It was reviewed by Tash Aw. His latest novel is "Five Star Billionaire." And for updates on books and authors throughout the day, you can follow NPRBooks on Facebook and on Twitter.
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