Tuesday, May 9, 2017


I enjoyed this spicy satire of money and manners in modern-day Singapore. It's full of shallow, scheming characters and lists of clothing designers and a lot of posturing and whining that is at times annoying and at other times just plain funny. So in some aspects, it's a beach read. But on another level, it's a satire with the social maneuvering writ VERY LARGE. So I found myself thinking of Jane Austen, the Best Satirist Ever of social manners and the ways money shapes people's lives. This book is in some ways a revved up modern-day Asian version of Pride and Prejudice, maybe combined with Emma. Lots of narcissism, controlling behavior, and obtuseness; a Mr. Collins figure; and an overbearing mother worthy of comparison to Mrs. Bennet, who is married to a man who hides in his study to watch action movies (a la Mr. Bennet). And through it all, a Lizzie (Rachel) who manages to stay true to herself. There's another couple that, despite best efforts, fails to keep their marriage together; they are the Fateful Warning of how pernicious this money-obsessed culture is. My only gripe was the "big reveal" at the end about Rachel's father, which to me felt unnecessary; the book was succeeding on its own terms; it felt to me like Kwan was setting a piece of filet mignon atop a delicate chocolate mousse to add some "heft" at the last minute. Sorry, food metaphors abound ... there was just so much good food in this novel! But I'd recommend this book for a fun, engaging read.

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