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Content/Trigger Warnings: Affairs, class discrimination, prejudice, racial slurs, homophobic slurs
I truly can not get over how much I liked this book. I didn’t know about anything about it before the movie release but I hadn’t yet watched the movie when I decided to pick up the book either. I went into this with zero expectations and had no idea what it was going to be like. To be completely honest with you, I felt like the book blurb was very vague, but in a way that really intrigued me. So, I decided to check it out.
It did not disappoint whatsoever.
I have to admit that I’ve never thought of myself as someone who enjoys dramatic story lines, especially ones based around catty women like in this novel. Additionally, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever picked up a book that I would consider to be comedic. However, humor and drama fuel this story and carry the plot entirely and I never once found it to be boring. Actually, it was the exact opposite: I enjoyed this book so much that I think it’s become one of my favorite 2019 reads thus far.
Let me go ahead and clarify something: I know that this book wasn’t perfect. I’ve seen other reviewers comment on the simplistic dialogue, the overload of details, and repetitive drama. But let me let you in on a little secret: those are some of the exact reasons why I really liked this novel.
Starting out, I was a little overwhelmed by all of the characters, and to be real with you all, there were still a few that I didn’t quite know when I ended this first installment. However, the family is large and the author was creative enough to include an extensive family tree at the very beginning of the book that really helped me keep track of everyone throughout.
Since the writing is in third person, the large amount of people and perspectives was much easier to tackle. This story isn’t just about Rachel & Nick; it encompasses drama and issues going on with several people and families. The way that Kwan wrote the book was perfect for this type of story telling, because writing a 1st person POV would’ve really limited the information and conversations that readers get to view.
As for the dialogue, I genuinely enjoyed that it was simple because it made room for the absolutely wonderful descriptions that Kwan included. I have never read a book that made me feel so a part of the story with the descriptions. The imagery in this was phenomenal! Usually when I read, the book plays out like a movie in my head; I can kind of create the images in my mind and see what’s happening. Kwan gave me so many details that the images in my mind became so real and vibrant.
I truly believe that the way he described foods, scenery, traditions, and more was a huge part of why I liked the story so much. I love reading books that teach me about other walks of life and cultures, and because this book features only Asian characters, I knew to expect to learn new things! However, this surpassed that expectation entirely and gave me so much insight into the Singaporean culture that I almost felt a part of it. The end notes that Kwan included were a huge plus as well, because they enabled him to keep the story authentic to the culture and still give those unfamiliar with the language or traditions a way to understand as well.
I also did not really feel like the drama was repetitive, but instead that it was the same issue being handled across many couples and families, and across a length of time. There were actually some pretty heavy and serious topics discussed in this, especially since so much of the drama revolves around love and money, yet everything was handled in such a light way that it was never daunting. Kwan managed to make it all humorous and satiric in a way that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I kind of feel like I could rant about this book forever because I truly loved the reading experience… but I’ve already picked up the second book in the series so I’ll save my breath for that review. I also wanted to note that if you’ve watched the movie but haven’t read the book, there are some pretty big differences in the story. I kind of felt like I got two entirely different stories but with the same characters, so I definitely encourage you to check out both if you haven’t already!