By Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi
You ran out of Beluga Caviar for breakfast and your regular wine merchant no longer has stock of your favorite small batch vintage rosé champagne? You’d think these are rich people problems, wouldn’t you? But in the Crazy Rich Asian world of Kevin Kwan, the characters would never have to face such unbearable disasters as they probably own the waters where the sturgeon breed and the vineyards in Champagne.
So what are Rich People Problems? According to Kwan’s latest book, it’s the hassle of having to split your wardrobe between three homes in three different countries (the answer is to buy everything in threes of course! Even if it’s a Giambattista Valli Haute Couture gown… for your baby girl), or more importantly, how to split hundreds of acres of prime real estate worth billions of dollars in the middle of Singapore.
Without revealing too much, what I loved the most about Kwan’s series is how unabashedly indulgent it is. Kind of like finishing off a pint of your favorite ice cream or taking that last extra bit of chocolate when no one is looking. This is exactly how I felt when I got to read an advanced copy on a long haul flight. I couldn’t put it down, giggling under the cloak of darkness with that small light on, illuminating the juicy pages. My husband shot me a dirty look as he was trying to sleep and the light was bothering him — hey that’s what eye masks are for!
Apart from the crazy characters like Kitty Pong and her private jet with a mile-high spa to more level-headed Rachel and Nick Young who painstakingly try to live “normal” lives, the best part about this book is that they dive deep into the lives of two of the series’ most interesting personalities: the enigmatic Astrid Leong and the legendary matriarch Su Yi.
On the one hand, you have the incredulous stories of the spending habits and odd obsessions of the über wealthy, which are a really fun and fascinating read, just like watching a trashy episode of Housewives of Atlanta; and on the other hand, there are some heartfelt moments and a sense of imprisonment, lost souls like Astrid and Nick grasping at some idea of normalcy from within their golden cages.
The characters are at times exaggerated caricatures but do poignantly portray a certain reality — no matter how distorted. I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) to rub elbows with a few creatures of Asian High-So and as crazy as some of their antics or personalities may seem, they do really exist. Once at a party for a high-end jeweler, I saw someone drop a couple million like it was chump change for a diamond the size of a kalamata olive. A good satire is always rooted in some truth.
I also enjoyed the historical aspects as quite a few things were revealed about how the famous Shang-Young family has branches all across the region and where their wealth came from. There are also interesting lessons to be learned about how each new generation perceives and manages their wealth and status, entitlement often rearing its ugly head with the youth. Let’s also not forget the ultimate underlying message in Kwan’s whole series: money doesn’t buy happiness.
This is an easy read — you’ll gobble it up in no time and be longing for more. It’s fun, it’s crazy, but also heartfelt. Plus, the Filipino audience will have a field day with the cameos played by some of Manila’s society staples. You can totally tell that Kevin Kwan had a blast when he was here a few years ago promoting his last book. Rich People Problems is the perfect weekend read that will give any show on Netflix a run for its money.
This review is written by Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi. Writer. Traveller. Wino. Foodie. Bohemian at heart. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @stephaniezubiri, and visit her blog at www.stephaniezubiri.com.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]