I first noticed this book in O magazine’s book review some time ago. It’s an honour that a book which is set in Singapore gets reviewed in O.
Kevin Kwan is reportedly based in US but grew up in Singapore. A self confessed ACS boy, he might have mingled with the high society described in his book to gave such intimate knowledge.
First of all, I admit I am awed, sometimes appalled by the book. I didn’t know there was such class division in my country, even though my paternal great Grand uncle from grandmorher’s side was one of the richest man in colonial Singapore. Having been educated in a school whose emphasis is on prudent and simplicity, I found the extravagance crass.
Is this book for real? Are there really such Crazy Rich Singaporeans who would spent money like this? I do not know. Perhaps those educated in ACS or MGS can tell me.
The story tells of a Chinese American (original mainlander) Rachel, who visits Singapore with her Singaporean boyfriend Nick to attend his best friend’s wedding. Like the readers, she is awed by his friends and family, deck in branded clothes, fast cars and private jets. His family, especially his mother and grandmother, disapprove of Rachel, the daughter of a man serving time in Shenzhen prison.
In the mean time, Nick’s cousin, Astrid is devastated that her husband has a mistress in Hong Kong with an illegitimate son.
Their problems are not tidied up at the end of the book, for the purpose is not their destination, but the readers’ journey into the lives of the filthy rich.
The book’s humour, to me, lies in the names which the author throws in random, which would unfortunately be lost to Western readers not familiar with the who’s and who’s of Singapore. They were not named directly, but subtle changes in the names brought some amusement as you recognize them. Even the places’ name, though given a twist, were instantly recognisable, which begs the questions. Why keep certain places’ names but change others? Eg: The Pulau Club (= Island Country Club, the golf club whose entrance fee could buy you a HDB.)
Among the names: KC Tang, Mrs Lee Yong Chien. Michael, Astrid’s husband when breaking up with her, uttered: we are not the mighty Tans, Kahs or Kees. (Tan Kah Kee and Lee Kong Chien were one of the richest men in post war Singapore. )
As a joke, the author even put in the name for a rich man as Tua Lao Sai
(Big loose stool in Hokkien ).
Jokes aside, he did a good job promoting local tourist’s spots and cuisines (all the nonya kuehs) which must sounds exotic to Western readers.
As a new writer, I noticed his POV is all over the place. What would my mentor say?