Sunday, 20 January 2019

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

As it's January, I wanted the first book of the year to be an uplifting one. And so with that, I bring you China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan !

China Rich Girlfriend is the sequel to book and recently adapted film, Crazy Rich Asians - one of my personal favourites of 2018. I was on such a high after leaving the cinema, I literally bought this book within hours of finishing the film.  Having now read the sequel, I would advise you actually read Crazy Rich Asians because, it seems the film took many creative liberties and so the book doesn't simply pick up where the film left off (this isn't really a critique of China Rich Girlfriend , it's more of a side note).

So unlike the film which ends with Nick's family finally accepting Rachel and two getting engaged,  when we meet Nick and Rachel in this book, the two families are not on good terms. The couple are planning a small and intimate wedding and Nick's entire family, bar Ingrid, are banned from attending. Also unlike the film, this series seemingly doesn't centre on Rachel and Nick but rather a whole host of different characters within this upper-class society. I fell in love with Constance Wu and Henry Golding's on screen portrayals of this couple but; seeing Rachel and Nick's relationship on the page, as sweet as it, it's evident that it's not enough to sustain an entire series.

As I mentioned, we're met with a host of new characters, all navigating their own rich people dramas and it's SO MUCH FUN. Stylistically China Rich Girlfriend is really unlike anything I've read before - it reads like a juicy soap opera as we weave in and out of characters' lives. Kevin Kwan writes in these hilarious footnotes throughout the novel. They reveal the shady-gossipy secrets and live reactions of each character to all the ensuing dramas. It's sharp, quick and witty.

For the most part, the novel is fluffy, over-the-top and doesn't take itself too seriously. And yet, this is all counteracted very nicely with Astrid's storyline. We see her relationship with her husband slowly deteriorate and the effect that has on her family, career and relationship with one particular childhood friend.  Certainly one of the more complex characters, we see her desperately try to keep things together, keep up appearances,throw money at her marriage in the hopes everything will work itself out when it clearly isn't working out. For all the glitz, glm and jokes in this book, it's nice to have a story that feels real and would likely resonate with more readers. I'd even go as far as to say there's enough in this storyline for an entire book and my only criticism of this book is that it doesn't have enough true-to-life stories to really ground the book.

Having said all that, in dreary old January, with Blue Monday being tomorrow, a witty, uplifting novel that doesn't take itself too seriously is maybe exactly what we all need.


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