Crazy Rich Asians, p.1Kevin Kwan
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Kevin Kwan
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
DOUBLEDAY and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Kurt Kaiser for permission to reprint an excerpt from the song “Pass It On” from Tell It Like It Is. Reprinted by permission of the artist.
Part opening illustration by Alice Tait
Jacket design by Ben Wiseman
Jacket photograph © adrisbow/Flickr/Getty Images
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Crazy rich Asians / Kevin Kwan. — 1st ed.
1. Fiancés—Fiction. 2. Fiancées—Fiction. 3. Americans—Singapore—Fiction. 4. Rich people—Fiction. 5. Social conflict—Fiction. 6. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
For my mother and father
Prologue: The Cousins
1. Nicholas Young and Rachel Chu
2. Eleanor Young
3. Rachel Chu
4. Nicholas Young
5. Astrid Leong
6. The Chengs
10. Edison Cheng
12. The Leongs
13. Philip and Eleanor Young
14. Rachel and Nicholas
16. The Gohs
17. Nicholas and Colin
18. Rachel and Peik Lin
2. Rachel and Nick
3. Peik Lin
4. Rachel and Nick
5. Astrid and Michael
6. Nick and Rachel
10. Eddie, Fiona, and the Children
14. Astrid and Michael
16. Dr. Gu
18. The Youngs
1. Tyersall Park
2. Nassim Road
4. First Methodist Church
5. Fort Canning Park
6. Tyersall Park
7. Pasir Panjang Road
8. Pulau Samsara
9. 99 Conduit Road
10. Tyersall Park
11. Residences at One Cairnhill
12. Wuthering Towers
13. Cameron Highlands
14. 64 Pak Tin Street
15. Villa d’Oro
16. Sentosa Cove
17. Repulse Bay
18. Villa d’Oro
19. The Star Trek House
20. Villa d’Ora
A Note About the Author
THE YOUNG, T’SIEN & SHANG CLAN
(a simplified family tree)
Please visit http://rhlink.com/cra001 to download a larger version of the family tree below.
1 This is what happens when you get a face-lift in Argentina.
2 M.C. is the abbreviation for Mom Chao, the title reserved for the grandsons of King Rama V of Thailand (1853 - 1910) and is the most junior class still considered royalty. In English this rank is translated as “His Serene Highness.” Like many members of the extended Thai royal family, they spend part of the year in Switzerland. Better golf, better traffic.
3 M.R. is the abbreviation for Mom Rajawongse, the title assumed by children of male Mom Chao. In English this rank is translated as “The Honorable.” The three sons of Catherine Young and Prince Taksin all married Thai women of noble birth. Since these wives’ names are all impressively long, unpronounceable to non-Thai speakers, and rather irrelevant to this story, they have been left out.
4 Plotting to run away to Manila with his dear nanny so he can compete in the World Karaoke Championships.
5 Her notorious gossip spreads faster than the BBC.
6 But has fathered at least one child out of wedlock with a Malay woman (who now lives in a luxury condo in Beverly Hills).
7 Hong Kong soap opera actress rumored to be the girl in the red wig from Crouch My Tiger, Hide Your Dragon II.
8 But unfortunately takes after her mother’s side of the family—the Chows.
9 Sold his Singapore properties in the 1980s for many millions and moved to Hawaii but constantly laments that he would be a billionaire today “if he’d just waited a few more years.”
Prologue: The Cousins
Nicholas Young slumped into the nearest seat in the hotel lobby, drained from the sixteen-hour flight from Singapore, the train ride from Heathrow Airport, and trudging through the rain-soaked streets. His cousin Astrid Leong shivered stoically next to him, all because her mother, Felicity, his dai gu cheh—or “big aunt” in Cantonese—said it was a sin to take a taxi nine blocks and forced everyone to walk all the way from Piccadilly Tube Station.
Anyone else happening upon the scene might have noticed an unusually composed eight-year-old boy and an ethereal wisp of a girl sitting quietly in a corner, but all Reginald Ormsby saw from his desk overlooking the lobby were two little Chinese children staining the damask settee with their sodden coats. And it only got worse from there. Three Chinese women stood nearby, frantically blotting themselves dry with tissues, while a teenager slid wildly across the lobby, his sneakers leaving muddy tracks on the black-and-white checker board marble.
Ormsby rushed downstairs from the mezzanine, knowing he could more efficiently dispatch these foreigners than his front-desk clerks. “Good evening, I am the general manager. Can I help you?” he said slowly, over-enunciating every word.
“Yes, good evening, we have a reservation,” the woman replied in perfect English.
Ormsby peered at her in surprise. “What name is it under?”
“Eleanor Young and family.”
Ormsby froze—he recognized the name, especially since the Young party had booked the Lancaster Suite. But who could have imagined that “Eleanor Young” would turn out to be Chinese, and how on earth did she end up here? The Dorchester or the Ritz might let this kind in, but this was the Calthorpe, owned by the Calthorpe-Cavendish-Gores since the reign of George IV and run for all intents and purposes like a private club for the sort of families that appeared in Debrett’s or the Almanach de Gotha. Ormsby considered the bedraggled women and the dripping children. The Dowager Marchioness of Uckfield was staying through the weekend, and he could scarcely imagine what she would make of these folk appearing at breakfast tomorrow. He made a swift decision. “I’m terribly sorry, but I can’t seem to find a booking under that name.”
“Are you sure?” Eleanor asked in surprise.
“Quite sure.” Ormsby grinned tightly.
Felicity Leong joined her sister-in-law at the front desk. “Is there a problem?” she asked impatiently, eager to get to the room to dry her hair.
“How come? Maybe you booked it under another name?” Felicity inquired.
“No, lah. Why would I do that? It was always booked under my name,” Eleanor replied irritatedly. Why did Felicity always assume she was incompetent? She turned back to the manager. “Sir, can you please check again? I reconfirmed our reservation just two days ago. We’re supposed to be in your largest suite.”
“Yes, I know you booked the Lancaster Suite, but I can’t find your name anywhere,” Ormsby insisted.
“Excuse me, but if you know we booked the Lancaster Suite, why don’t we have the room?” Felicity asked, confused.
Bloody hell. Ormsby cursed at his own slip-up. “No, no, you misunderstood. What I meant was that you might think you booked the Lancaster Suite, but I certainly can’t find any record of it.” He turned away for a moment, pretending to rummage through some other paperwork.
Felicity leaned over the polished oak counter and pulled the leather-bound reservations book toward her, flipping through pages. “Look! It says right here ‘Mrs. Eleanor Young—Lancaster Suite for four nights.’ Do you not see this?”
“Madam! That is PRIVATE!” Ormsby snapped in fury, startling his two junior clerks, who glanced uncomfortably at their manager.
Felicity peered at the balding, red-faced man, the situation suddenly becoming abundantly clear. She hadn’t seen this particular brand of superior sneer since she was a child growing up in the waning days of colonial Singapore, and she thought this kind of overt racism had ceased to exist. “Sir,” she said politely but firmly, “this hotel came highly recommended to us by Mrs. Mince, the wife of the Anglican Bishop of Singapore, and I clearly saw our name in your registry book. I don’t know what sort of funny business is going on, but we have traveled a very long way and our children are tired and cold. I insist that you honor our reservation.”
Ormsby was indignant. How dare this Chinese woman with the Thatcheresque perm and preposterous “English” accent speak to him in such a manner? “I’m afraid we simply do not have anything available,” he declared.
“Are you telling me that there are no rooms left in this entire hotel?” Eleanor said incredulously.
“Yes,” he replied curtly.
“Where are we supposed to go at this hour?” Eleanor asked.
“Perhaps someplace in Chinatown?” Ormsby sniffed. These foreigners had wasted enough of his time.
Felicity went back to where her younger sister Alexandra Cheng stood guarding the luggage. “Finally! I can’t wait to take a hot bath,” Alexandra said eagerly.
“Actually, this odious man is refusing to give us our room!” Felicity said, making no attempt to hide her fury.
“What? Why?” Alexandra asked, completely confused.
“I think it has something to do with us being Chinese,” Felicity said, as if she didn’t quite believe her own words.
“Gum suey ah!”† Alexandra exclaimed. “Let me talk to him. Living in Hong Kong, I have more experience dealing with these types.”
“Alix, don’t bother. He’s a typical ang mor gau sai!”‡ Eleanor exclaimed.
“Even so, isn’t this supposed to be one of London’s top hotels? How can they get away with that sort of behavior?” Alexandra asked.
“Exactly!” Felicity raged on. “The English are normally so lovely, I have never been treated like this in all my years coming here.”
Eleanor nodded in agreement, even though privately she felt that Felicity was partly to blame for this fiasco. If Felicity wasn’t so giam siap§ and had let them take a taxi from Heathrow, they would have arrived looking far less disheveled. (Of course, it didn’t help that her sisters-in-law always looked so dowdy, she had to dress down whenever she traveled with them, ever since that trip to Thailand when everyone mistook them for her maids.)
Edison Cheng, Alexandra’s twelve-year-old son, approached the ladies nonchalantly, sipping soda from a tall glass.
“Aiyah, Eddie! Where did you get that?” Alexandra exclaimed.
“From the bartender, of course.”
“How did you pay for it?”
“I didn’t—I told him to charge it to our suite,” Eddie replied breezily. “Can we go up now? I’m starving and I want to order from room service.”
Felicity shook her head in disapproval—Hong Kong boys were notoriously pampered, but this nephew of hers was incorrigible. Good thing they were here to put him in boarding school, where he would have some sense knocked into him—cold morning showers and stale toast with Bovril was what he needed. “No, no, we’re not staying here anymore. Go and watch Nicky and Astrid while we decide what to do,” Felicity instructed.
Eddie walked over to his younger cousins, resuming the game they had begun on the plane. “Off the sofa! Remember, I’m the chairman, so I’m the one who gets to sit,” he commanded. “Here, Nicky, hold my glass while I sip from the straw. Astrid, you’re my executive secretary, so you need to massage my shoulders.”
“I don’t know why you get to be the chairman, while Nicky is the vice president and I have to be the secretary,” Astrid protested.
“Didn’t I explain this already? I’m the chairman, because I am four years older than the both of you. You’re the executive secretary, because you’re the girl. I need a girl to massage my shoulders and to help choose jewelry for all my mistresses. My best friend Leo’s father, Ming Kah-Ching, is the third-richest man in Hong Kong, and that’s what his executive secretary does.”
“Eddie, if you want me to be your vice president, I should be doing something more important than holding your glass,” Nick argued. “We still haven’t decided what our company makes.”
“I’ve decided—we make custom limousines, like Rolls-Royces and Jags,” Eddie declared.
“Can’t we make something cooler, like a time machine?” Nick asked.
“Well, these are ultra-special limousines with features like Jacuzzis, secret compartments, and James Bond ejector seats,” Eddie said, bouncing up from the settee so suddenly that he knocked the glass out of Nick’s hand. Coca-Cola spilled everywhere, and the sound of smashing glass pierced the lobby. The bell captain, concierge, and front-desk clerks glared at the children. Alexandra rushed over, shaking a finger in dismay.
“Eddie! Look what you’ve done!”
“It wasn’t my fault—Nicky was the one who dropped it,” Eddie began.
“But it’s your glass, and you hit it out of my hand!” Nick defended himself.
Ormsby approached Felicity and Eleanor. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises.”
“Can we just use your telephone?” Eleanor pleaded.
“I do think the children have done quite enough damage for one night, don’t you?” he hissed.
It was still drizzling, and the group huddled under a green-and-white-striped awning on Brook Street while Felicity stood inside a phone booth frantically calling other hotels.
“Dai gu cheh looks like a soldier in a sentry box in that red booth,” Nick observed, rather thrilled by the strange turn of events. “Mummy, what are we going to do if we can’t find a place to stay tonight? Maybe we can sleep in Hyde Park. There’s an amazing weeping beech in Hyde Park called the upside-down tree, and its branches hang down so low that it’s almost like a cave. We can all sleep underneath and be protected—”
“Don’t talk nonsense! No one is sleeping in the park. Dai gu cheh is calling other hotels right now,” Eleanor said, thinking that her son was getting far too precocious for his own good.
“Oooh, I want to sleep in the park!” Astrid squealed in delight. “Nicky, remember how we moved that big iron bed at Ah Ma’s house into the garden and slept under the stars one night?”
“Well, you two can sleep in the loong kau‖ for all I care, but I’ll take the big royal suite, where I can order club sandwiches with champagne and caviar,” Eddie said.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Eddie. When have you ev
“At Leo’s house. Their butler always serves us caviar with little triangles of toasted bread. And it’s always Iranian beluga, because Leo’s mum says Iranian caviar is the best,” Eddie declared.
“Connie Ming would say something like that,” Alexandra muttered under her breath, glad her son was finally away from that family’s influence.
Inside the telephone booth, Felicity was trying to explain the predicament to her husband over a crackly connection to Singapore.
“What nonsense, lah! You should have demanded the room!” Harry Leong fumed. “You are always too polite—these service people need to be put in their place. Did you tell them who we are? I’m going to call up the minister of trade and investment right now!”
“Come on, Harry, you’re not helping. I’ve called more than ten hotels already. Who knew that today was Commonwealth Day? Every VIP is in town and everyone is booked solid. Poor Astrid is soaked through. We need to find someplace for tonight before your daughter catches her death of cold.”
“Did you try calling your cousin Leonard? Maybe you could take a train straight to Surrey,” Harry suggested.
“I did. He’s not in—he’s grouse hunting in Scotland all weekend.”
“What a bloody mess!” Harry sighed. “Let me call Tommy Toh over at the Singapore embassy. I’m sure they can sort things out. What is the name of this bloody racist hotel?”
“The Calthorpe,” Felicity answered.
“Alamak, is this the place owned by Rupert Calthorpe-something-something?” Harry asked, suddenly perking up.
“I have no idea.”
“Where is it located?”
“It’s in Mayfair, close to Bond Street. It’s actually a rather beautiful hotel, if it wasn’t for this horrible manager.”
“Yes, I think that’s it! I played golf with Rupert what’s his name and a few other Brits last month in California, and I remember him telling me all about his place. Felicity, I have an idea. I’m going to call this Rupert fellow. Just stay put and I’ll call you back.”
Ormsby stared in disbelief when the three Chinese children burst through the front door again, barely an hour after he had evicted the whole lot of them.
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