I don’t know how I’d go reading the book of Crazy Rich Asians because of the strong use of Singlish (Singaporean English) but listening to the audiobook is damn funny! Lynn Chen’s reading of Kevin Kwan’s bitchy romantic comedy is priceless.
Over the years, I’ve heard a few of my Singaporean friends joke about the intricacies of Singlish, with their quirky colloquialisms and use of “lah” at the end of so many sentences. It’s difficult to mimic correctly, particularly with the added lyricism of a Chinese accent, so hearing it in full swing is half the fun of this audiobook, even for the uninitiated.
Crazy Rich Asians follows the misfortunes of Rachel Chu, an ABC (American-Born Chinese), who travels to Singapore with her long-time boyfriend for his best friend’s wedding. There, she finds herself ill-prepared for the excessively wealthy lifestyle of her boyfriend’s family and friends. While Rachel struggles to fit in and get her head around the ways of the obscenely rich, she faces conniving friends and an equally unaccepting matriarch out to destroy her relationship.
There are subplots about a cheating husbands and money grabs, with expected themes of family, friendship, racism, personal priorities and trust. Central to the plot is also the popular fantasy of unexpectedly coming into ridiculous wealth – the kind of fantasy that spawned 1980s American soap operas like Dynasty.
Crazy Rich Asians is more than just chick-lit though. It’s a highly enjoyable culture shock, introducing us to various aspects of Singaporean culture through the eyes of Chinese Singaporeans, who make up more than 75% of the island nation’s population. Granted, as the title suggests, it focusses on a very small percentage of that ethnic majority but, going by Kwan’s representation of them, they’re the fun bunch! His privileged characters are all distinct and loveable, even if you find yourself loving to hate them.
Lynn Chen’s magnificent narration really brings these characters to life. Their personalities, unique speech patterns and their crazy, passionate viewpoints are all beautifully and often comically realised.
A film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians is being released later this month which I look forward to seeing, but it will be hard pressed to top Chen’s stellar narration. The unabridged audiobook was released exclusively by Audible in October 2015 although it has recently been re-released more broadly as a movie tie-in edition (same audiobook, different cover image). It runs for just under 14 glorious hours and is well worth a listen.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Crazy Rich Asians is more than just chick-lit. Lynn Chen’s magnificent narration really brings these characters to life. Their personalities, unique speech patterns and their crazy, passionate viewpoints are all beautifully and often comically realised.