My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this romp through Asia, an eye opening experience to be sure. Kevin Kwan creates a nightmare paradise of extravagant materialism and rigid tradition, where life's entire purpose has become accumulating enough status points to enter into a great Singapore family. Rachel Chu is inserted by her boyfriend into this milieu and the knives appear.
The characters are strong. The world building is good. One annoyance I had as a reader was the head hopping, especially at parties, where we seem to be passed around the room like a drink tray.
It is a quick read and both lighthearted and informative. It draws attention to Asia, especially China's expat population, which to a large degree, are the dynamos of the economy. 60% of Earth's population live in Asia, and little Singapore, the 18th largest economy in Asia, ranks 5th in the world in GDP per capita. Kwan's portrayal of the families and their aloof disdain for the world's suffering (Michael makes this point to Astrid) is offset by his compassionate portrayal of Rachel's mother, whose journey to America was moving indeed. A few of the women come off as one-dimensional and shrewish but Rachel and Astrid in particular show great agency.
Final verdict: Good but not great and more fun than I expected.
View all my reviews