In this note to readers, Knopf editor Jennifer Jackson introduces Kevin Kwan’s fantastic debut novel Crazy Rich Asians, now in paperback from Anchor. The book is an entertaining romp through the grandiose world of the Singapore jet set, and a “wickedly delectable” and “dizzily shopaholic comedy,” according to The New York Times. Sumptuously written and featuring a unique cast of “crazy rich” characters, it’s the perfect candidate for your next reading group meeting.
Halfway through Kevin Kwan’s gloriously outrageous debut, Crazy Rich Asians, Astrid Leong, It Girl of Singapore society, buys a pair of earrings; a pair of eight hundred thousand dollar stunners, just to distract herself from her love life. The scene is wonderfully vivid, Astrid’s romantic jealously painfully real, and the earrings, well, the earrings are perfect.
I know this because the author brought me along on a research expedition. On a Friday afternoon, we made our way to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, through the glossy showroom of VBH Luxury, past the buttery soft leather handbags, and down into the jewelry vault. There, surrounded by rings with inverted diamonds and necklaces that wrapped like snakes with ruby eyes, were the earrings: chandeliers shaped like Navajo dream catchers, featuring 23 carat, paper-thin slices of ice diamonds. As I lifted one to my ear I had two thoughts simultaneously: “This earring costs more than an apartment;” and “This book is going to be crazy fun to publish.”
In a novel that takes us from the hidden chambers of Paris salons where the women of Singapore go to quietly spend millions of dollars on couture gowns, to the private island resorts of Eastern Indonesia, to the VVIP casinos of Macau, Crazy Rich Asians is the story of the Asian Jet Set elite, and I devoured every single word. Think Downton Abbey set in modern-day Singapore. Think The Devil Wears Prada with characters who never work. Think The Joy Luck Club with private jets. I can’t remember the last time I read a novel this spectacularly opulent, fabulously addictive, and completely engrossing.
So pop open a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, slip into your favorite Valentino, ask the maid to bring over a plate of goring pisang, and dive into the world of Crazy Rich Asians. In the meantime, I’ll be off on another research expedition. There’s a Dries van Noten dress Astrid wears that I might just need to see in person…
Consult our reader’s guide to enhance your book club discussion of Crazy Rich Asians.