By Jordan Tan
Rich People Problems is the third of a three-book series about Asia’s fabulously rich, written by Kevin Kwan. It centers on three ultra rich Chinese families based in Singapore, Hong Kong, and England.
It opened with first installment Crazy Rich Asians, 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 talking about making and spending money are what’s in with this ultra-exclusive set.
China Rich Girlfriend followed, which, for me, basically centered on 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 the characters Kitty Pong and Michael Teo—it didn’t make the same waves the first book did.
Rich People’s Problems could. It puts the spotlight back on the Youngs and explores in more depth the goings-on in and around their lives—something China Rich Girlfriend lacked.
Rich People Problems is divided into four parts, bookended with a prologue and an epilogue. It’s the longest book of the series but you’ll hardly notice that at all. The buildup of suspense as every chapter unfolds won’t let you want to let go of the book easily. You’d want to know what happens next. But the occasional comic relief, 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 Tyers all 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 toward the end.
- And of course, the spotlight on the Philippines—scenes in a Dasmariñas Village mansion and the beautifully described tropical island of Matinloc in El Nido, and 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 toward 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 find out what Su Yi meant by her statement but does this mean that Su Yi harbored some sort of disappointment toward 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 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, and the 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?