Wherever I go, I want to make sure I’ve got a book to accompany me. Seeing the world from the novel come to life around you as you explore a new city is such a perfect way to travel; and as an English literature graduate, my natural way to learn. Admittedly, I wanted to start this trip with something pretty light. Something I could easily get into during the THIRTEEN HOUR flight. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan certainly did the job.
At times this book was deeply satirical (I hope) and at times completely ridiculous. The characters were pretty standard, fairly 2-dimensional yet humorous, with gossip and the social stratosphere always at the forefront of their minds. As I read, I found myself far more invested in the descriptions of the city- the food, the local haunts, the different districts- than in the interweaving plot lines.
Don’t get me wrong, the stories were enjoyable. At the centre of the narrative there was a Romeo and Juliet-esk melodrama. A VERY rich young man falls in love with a (wait for it) SLIGHTLY LESS rich woman. I know, shock horror. I imagine you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to hear how that one will unfold, but I’m afraid you’ll have to go out and buy the book yourself.
I think that if I hadn’t been using this book half as a travel guide (ok fine, most of the places weren’t exactly in my backpackers’ budget but they did mention the occasional Hawker centre…) then I might have grown tired of the laborious lists. Ok Kevin, you know Singapore very well, we get it. For my purposes though, this narrative style worked perfectly. All this name dropping of specific streets, districts and eateries heightened my anticipation to find them all in real life. This detail was also great for giving a poor tourist like me little imaginary glimpses into the interiors of the super flashy buildings that I could merely gaze at from the outside. Reading about rich kids Nick and Rachel flirting over Singapore Slings, toes dipped in the infinity pool on the rooftop garden of Sands Skypark, was BASICALLY as good as the real thing, right?! Probably…
Some of the description in the novel really did pin-down the metropolis though. When new-girl-on-the-block Rachel first catches sight of the city the view that greets her will be familiar for anyone who’s visited:
“The view she could glimpse from the plain did not resemble some romantic terrain swathed in midst- rather, it was a dense metropolis of skyscrapers glittering in the evening sky, and from six thousand feet Rachel could already feel the pulsating energy that was one of the world’s financial powerhouses”
This was spot on. You can feel the power of Singapore as soon as you catch a glimpse of that crazy cityscape. It is certainly no surprise that it has become a playground for the rich.
For now however, I’m going to have to accept that this crazy rich lifestyle will remain the stuff of novels. Time to bring by backpacking head down from the clouds and pick up my next book!