Summer Book Club Pick: Rich People Problems

Call it a literary hat trick! Rich People Problems, the third novel in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asian series, is as fun, fast-paced and fabulous as his first two books. It is hard to resist indulging in this inside view of the over-the-top, ultraluxe life of a fictional superrich family extending to Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Shanghai and New York. In in the spirit of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, Rich People Problems revels in the convoluted familial issues tied to money, reputation and status.

We reached out to Kevin Kwan to get the real story behind this best-selling book.

HKM: How much of this story is hyperbole? The lifestyles seem beyond reality!  

KK: I would estimate that 80% of this story is absolutely drawn from true experiences, and 20% is adding some gold dust and magic.

HKM: Does a place like Tyersall Park truly exist?

KK: It absolutely does.  Tyersall Park is actually inspired by a real historic property in Singapore, in the exact location described in the books.  It’s called Woodneuk, and is said to belong to the Sultan of Johor.  No one has lived there in decades, but my friend the actress Julia Nickson (Hong Kong readers might recall her scene-stealing performance in James Clavell’s “Noble House”) remembers: “We were all polo players and friends with the Sultan of Johore who leased Istana Woodneuk to my friends. I had free run of the place during the day when everyone was at work so it used to be my secret hideaway from the world. My driver drove to Woodneuk from Tyersall Road but once you were on the estate the paved road ended because the istana was literally a small palace in the middle of a jungle.”

HKM: How did you do your research?   

KK: I really didn’t do any research at all.  Everything I write is drawn either from memories, or it’s just my imagination at work.

HKM: How much time did you spend in Hong Kong, in particular, and where did you go?

KK: I’ve been visiting Hong Kong every few years since I was a child, as I have many relatives here. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve visited, and I’ve been practically everywhere.  It’s like a second home to me.

HKM: How do you find the audience outside Asia reacts to this book (some Americans may not even know what Singapore is!)?

KK: I wrote this book with the idea that it was meant for Western readers, and it’s been incredibly well received outside of Asia.  The book has appeared on the bestseller lists in the US, Canada and Australia and has also been translated into 13 languages.  I feel that people around the world are fascinated by what’s happening in Asia, and the story is one that people of all cultures seem to be able to relate to.  I’ve heard from readers as far away as Israel and Poland who tell me, “We may not be Asian, and we may not be rich, but my family is JUST like the one you write about!”

HKM: Have you had any feedback that your characters perpetuate stereotypes? Or that the book negatively portray Asians?

KK: No one’s ever said anything like that to me.

HKM: Do you think the level of superrich lifestyle you portray exists within the elite in NY or London?

KK: Yes, definitely.  I think there now exists a global wealth culture where the superrich around the world—from Asia to Europe to the US, are becoming more and more similar in their lifestyles and tastes.

HKM: Are the complex family dynamics you write about due to Asian culture and heritage or is it a result of an excess of money?

KK: I think it’s a combination of both.  When history and culture collide with too much money, this is what you get!

HKM: What can we expect from the movie adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians? 

KK: I’m hoping that audiences will find it to be jaw-droppingly spectacular, and that they’ll have many laughs and a great time.

HKM: Will the story continue? Will there be a fourth book?

KK: The story of the Young family has ended, for now.  I might write more about these characters in the future, but  my fourth book will be something completely different.  I need to shake things up and tell some new stories!

While we may not be able to relate exactly to the RRP, we will certainly recognize some references and thoroughly enjoy this dishy novel. So pour yourself some rosé, get cozy on your chaise, and dive into the ultimate summer read! Let us know what you think!

Look for the Hong Kong Moms Book Club tag on our picks at Bookazine stores!

Kevin Kwan, author of Rich People Problems
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