If you always though the poor have it hard, come and meet the newly rich Asians and see how hard life can really be. When Su Yi, head of a family of a rich and famous Singapore clan is about to die, the whole family rushes to her mansion not only to pay their respects but also to seize the chance of inheriting some of her wealth, first of all Tyersall Park. Children and grandchildren alike start an open fight, first of all Eddie who feels betrayed because his mother just married a renowned doctor and not a prince or billionaire. He fears that the grandmother’s beloved grandson Nicholas will get the mansion. When Su Yi finally dies, her last will has some surprises for all of them.
Kevin Kwan’s novel is just hilarious. His characters are uniquely drawn and his masterly way of narrating the story is just great fun to read. One can easily picture that the story to be quite authentic even though I personally was never in contact with those superrich, the way their life is portrayed here is just what I would imagine.
First of all, his characters. Even though Kwan might make use of some cliché – having a personal plastic surgeon, the big tabloids and popular magazines fighting for portrays about their fancy life etc. – nevertheless, when it comes to basic traits of character, they are all quite realistically drawn: Eddie, full of envy for his cousins and always fearing that he comes last and does not get what he deserves. Astrid who becomes the victim of her ex-husbands hatred and who is blackmailed and in the centre of a scandalous affair. Kitty who married one of China’s richest businessmen but suffers from her stepdaughter’s fame and popularity. And of course Su Yi who is only awake for minutes but immediately understands which ploys her descendants try.
Yet, apart from the character study there is another story underneath which comes quite unexpectedly and is linked to Singapore and India’s past and connection to the former coloniser England. There are secrets buried which come finally out and can actually add a lot to the superficial life most characters lead. All this is told with Kevin Kwan’s fine ironical tone which is highly entertaining.