China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, blends lifestyle porn and careful attentions to customs and manners of an Edith Wharton or Candace Bushnell adventure, only set among the hyperwealthy Chinese, instead of hyperwealthy New Yorkers. So, the correct designers outfits are worn to the correct private jewelry showings, but instead of getting a summer house in the wrong side of the Hamptons, new money characters make their New Year’s visits in the wrong order. So good, you guys.
This would be a really fun read, if only for the travelogue and lifestyle porn aspects, but you guys, there is so much snark in this novel. There’s occasional Hokkien and Cantonese insults and snark, with the translation in even snarkier footnotes. When social consultant Corinna Ko-Tung agrees to reinvent Kitty Pong, a reality star with high-class aspirations, she gives her an assignment list of some of my favorite manners novels, with hilariously harsh commentary on how to learn from them.
At one point, Collette Bing, heiress and Instagram celebrity, spontaneously flies her friends (and her friends’ personal maids, of course) by carefully decorated private jet to Paris. Most of the friends in question treat this as though a friend dropped by the office with a surprise latte, not that anyone here works an office job. In another scene, gossiping aunties discuss who has been tragically disinherited and left with mere millions. And a young wife wonders if her hyperrich father might have deliberately overvalued and then secretly bought out her husband’s tech startup, in order to give his son-in-law some independence.
The story took a little while to get going, but don’t skim the names of party guests or skip who gave who a meaningful glance, and definitely don’t lose track of which characters are cousins. This is all vitally important information.
Apparently Rachel and Nick’s romance was covered in Crazy Rich Asians, Kwan’s first novel, but I didn’t realize this going in. At the beginning of the book, Nick has defied his wealthy and connected family to marry Rachel, an American-born college professor, who doesn’t have a famous name or even a father’s name. But it turns out that Rachel bears a striking resemblance to another Hong Kong patriarch, and she might have a pedigree after all. There were several story arcs, with so many great characters, leading to a really delightful ending where all our star-crossed lovers get to be together, including a perfect secret boyfriend for Kitty Pong. But a pretty major question has been left unresolved, because we never really find out if Nick will be reinstated as the heir to his family’s fortune after marrying someone outside the circle. Maybe that means a third romp through the social lives of hyperrich Asian families is coming?