China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

In brief: Return to the world of the super rich of Asia – meeting new characters such as Colette and Carlton and crazier schemes than anything you could ever imagine.

The good: Never, ever boring – someone or something is always crazy.

The not-so-good: Plot is slightly fractured due to the number of characters.

Why I chose it: Loved Crazy Rich Asians – thank you to Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for the ARC.

Year: 2015

Pages: 378 (ARC)

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Setting: Asia, Europe, USA…this crew go everywhere (but never, ever fly commercial)

My rating: 9.5 out of 10

Ever since Crazy Rich Asians was released, I’ve been hanging out for its sequel. Now that China Rich Girlfriend was in my non-bejewelled, non-caviar manicured hands, I simply had to read it. (Even if the ARC wasn’t as blingy as the finished product – a red spangled cover that surely needs its own matching nail polish – this book was mine, all mine, and I was going to devour it). Once again, we are back in the world of super-duper triple scooper rich Asia and the ride is certainly not smooth, nor boring.

China Rich Girfriend differs from its predecessor in that it’s not the chain store to riches tale of Rachel. In fact, you could even say that Rachel and Nick are just two of the players in this ensemble cast. Think Sex and the City for the crazy rich, where nothing is out of anyone’s reach. Fly to Paris in an hour? No sweat. Want to buy the biggest art world find in history – and set auction records? Barely a sweat darling. You know you are fully immersed in this world when you read a story about Hollywood and think about how poor a star is with only millions. This is billions and more. Where is the money coming from? China, of course. We meet the Baos, a superrich family with a playboy son who disappoints them in so many ways. To everyone else, Carlton is a superstar. He’s the girlfriend to Collette, fashion blogger and billionaires. Her every move is chronicled in detail and tracked by millions, but is Colette smarter than she acts? We also return to life of Astrid, whose husband is now a self-made man with the garage to match. Being rich hasn’t helped their marriage. Of course, the biggest return is newly married Kitty Pong who wants to be part of the crème de la crème of Hong Kong. For a pretty price, Corinna will help her become demure and accepted – but is Corinna up to the challenge?

From the very first page, China Rich Girlfriend hits the ground running in only the best footwear money can buy. There’s ostentatiousness every which way (Mrs Bao likes to thank people by customising a Birkin or Kelly for them – she has a room full of them) and plenty of intrigue. Plus there is the return of my favourite, the footnotes, which have enough slang and insults in Cantonese/Mandarin/Hokkien to keep anyone entertained. This story is wonderfully, crazily over the top and then some. It’s incredibly fun in its brand name dropping, over the top storylines (nobody could guess Kitty’s in a billion years) and jet setting lifestyle. Once again, its Rachel and Nick that are the voice of moderation and reason. But compared to Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel is an enigma that fascinates Shanghai. Nobody can work her out, probably because she’s the most honest of the group. She’s a bit more on the sidelines, despite the identity of her father being one of the main plot threads.

My only negative in regard to this book is that after I finished it and reflected on what had happened, it seemed like wasn’t a huge crescendo, only a number of smaller ones. The identity of Rachel’s father is revealed early on (in truly spectacular style thanks to Eleanor Young) and the other secret reveals are definitely intriguing, but not a huge ‘WHOA!’ moment. I believe that there is a third and final book in the series and honestly, I can’t even begin to think what Kevin Kwan has planned for it. Perhaps that will have the knock your socks off crescendo but for now, I’m happy to be taken on this first class ride.

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