Published by Knopf Doubleday
Publication date: June 16th 2015
As summer appears in all its sweltering glory China Rich Girlfriend is the sumptuous equivalent of a decadent ice cream in book format. The novel is Kevin Kwan’s follow-up to his biting and over-the-top debut Crazy Rich Asians about people with more money than brains and taste. In China Rich Girlfriend, much of the original cast is back, along with some new stereotypes of the uber-wealthy including the porn star trying to reinvent into herself into a society lady and the heir to the money throne who buys cars the way the rest of us buy ice cream (OK, the way I buy ice cream). Even in this rarified atmosphere Kwan is quick to draw lines between the blue bloods of Hong Kong and the oh-so-gauche Mainlanders, who while they may have the money do not have a pedigree and try far too hard to show off their wealth.
There are flaws in China Rich Girlfriend if you’re compelled to find them. Certain aspects of the plot figure prominently in the beginning and then disappear only to reappear at the end with nothing in between. But honestly, if you’re reading Kwan as literary fiction you’re in the wrong aisle. If what you want is well-paced drama perfectly wrapped up in designer names even the merely rich don’t know then China Rich Girlfriend is the only place to shop. Through Kwan you’ll read about people who are ready and able to shell out $10 million dollars in bribes to cover up their scandals, who wear jewels so massive they appear fake, and who will spend millions on a car but will make their own ramen noodles in their hotel room because the prices at the local Chinese restaurant are too expensive. As one bystander puts it:
“Oooo, I can’t wait to meet all these women I’ve been hearing so much about—it’s gonna be like an issue of Vanity Fair magazine come to life!”
Yes, indeed. And just like in Vanity Fair the exuberant frivolity of China Rich Girlfriend is infectious in its absurdity. Kwan’s characters are no more real than those found in science fiction but who wants real when you can experience foolish people with nonsensical levels of wealth spending gobs of money on caviar spoons used by Tsar Nicholas. Settle in, pretend your iced tea is Krug, and be prepared to be entertained and delighted. The real world is highly overrated, dahling.
p.s. If you think the title is merely a coy made-up term just google it and you’ll see that Forbes publishes a list of China Rich. There is such a group of people, which is an odd concept to reconcile with Communism and makes me wonder if Mao Tse Tung can be seen rolling over in his crystal display coffin. How can you get rich in a Communist country? Apparently, you can and to the tune of the GDP of many nations combined. It may be disturbing for those of us who will never know regular rich but by pillorying China Rich in knife sharp prose Kwan eases our pain a bit with humor.