Rich People Problems, written by Kevin Kwan, is the third of a three-book series about Asia’s fabulously rich. The series centers on three, ultra-rich Chinese families based in Singapore, Hong Kong, and England with the third book featuring families from Bangkok and Shanghai, as well.
It opened with Crazy Rich Asians (2013), which quickly had people intrigued and engrossed with the lives of Asia’s uber-rich and powerful. Fame is considered vulgar—discretion is king—while gossiping, scheming, and talk about making and spending money are what’s in with this ultra-exclusive set.
China Rich Girlfriend (2015) followed, which for me, basically centered around the excesses of China’s nouveau riche. While it explored Rachel’s backstory and laid down the groundwork for some elements for the current book—like the introduction of Carlton Bao and Colette Bing, as well as Kitty Pong’s and Michael Teo’s characters’ development—it didn’t make the same waves the first book did.
Rich People’s Problems could. It puts the spotlight back to the Youngs and explores in depth the goings-on in and around their lives—something China Rich Girlfriend lacked in doing.
Rich People Problems is divided into four parts bookended with a prologue and an epilogue. It’s actually the longest book of the series but you’ll hardly notice that at all. The buildup of suspense as every chapter unfolds wouldn’t let you want to let go of the book easily. You’d want to know what happens next. The occasional comic relief though—especially the footnotes—that Kevin Kwan never fails to deliver helps ease up the suspense, and even manages to throw in a few laughs.
I don’t want to spoil much of what happens in the book, so I’ll just get on with a list of what to expect:
- Who will inherit Tyersall Park after Su Yi passes away.
- The extent of the Young family’s wealth.
- More about Su Yi’s past. It’s central to the plot. You might end up going back a few chapters with each new revelation.
- Appearances from the Thai branch of the Young family. They even play quite a big role in the whole scheme of things.
- More of the Shangs and the Tsiens are introduced.
- More over-the-top drama from Eddie, glamorous displays of fashion from Astrid, judgments from Eleanor and Felicity, and ever-complex rich people politics.
- Kitty Pong Tai is now Kitty Pong Tai Bing. Seemingly unnecessary at first, she would play an important role towards the end.
- And of course, the spotlight on the Philippines. There are scenes set in a Dasmariñas Village mansion and the beautifully described tropical island of Matinloc in El Nido, as well as pseudonyms of some of Philippine society’s who’s who. Don’t expect to read much about the country though and also, these mentions appear towards the end. But hey, it’s still publicity for us.
All in all, I think Rich People Problems wonderfully ends the Crazy Rich Asians series. It clarifies in better detail some of the plot points that were not expounded on in the earlier two books. There are still some points to consider though like what Su Yi meant when she told Astrid that “He wouldn’t have behaved like Alfred, for one thing,” referring to her older brother Alexander Shang (introduced in the book, but had passed away decades before the event of the first book).
It’s noteworthy to mention that according to the book, Astrid didn’t want to bother to finding out what Su Yi meant by her statement but, does this mean that Su Yi harbored some sort of disappointment towards Alfred all this time?
By the end of the trilogy, you’ll come to realize that the whole series is just about a family going through the usual family problems; just with a little bit more mystery, drama, and love for literature’s sake.
It’s just that, the family in question is fabulously and eye-wateringly rich. Remove, or in some cases, lessen, the ostentatious displays of lifestyle, and you’ll realize that they’re just a bunch of normal people that most of us can even relate to.
Add to the fact that some, if not most, of the overseas Chinese culture showcased can be related to very well by the overseas Chinese readers like the curse words, the expressions, the gossiping, the token judgmental relatives, and the millennia-old traditions.
It may not be a literary masterpiece, but it’s definitely a great read that could sum up well the 21st century rich Asian lifestyle; a 21st century, Asian, Pride and Prejudice-esque book, perhaps?
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan. 2017, Doubleday. 398 pages. Available at National Bookstore.