The third book in the series felt like the weakest, and tho Kevin Kwan tried to make a point about how the old guard are mostly a bunch of racist elitists who are insecure because they inherited everything instead of making their own fortunes, I really felt like that one scene was just a ham-handed insertion into a book surprisingly short on social commentary. I did appreciate Astrid’s realization about the ways in which her parents had raised her to be fearful but, to be quite frank, the book felt too much like a rejection of Asian manners for a more flash Western ethos, and that didn’t sit well with me. Consider the juxtaposition of her speech to Charlie on the subject with having sex on a public beach. I have nothing against public displays of affection/sexuality but the people having sex should both be aware of it, ffs. Rachel and Nick were as irritating as always — yes, it is annoying how Asian parents pressure you to have children, and yes, it is absurd the lengths that they’ll go to in order to pressure you, but that doesn’t mean you have to behave like a jackass in return. It is possible to thwart one’s parents’ plans for you without causing a scene and/or severing ties with them (I’ve done it, goodness knows, as have innumerable Austen heroines.) It is possible to be independent and kind all at once, and I wish that was the contrast Mr Kwan had chosen instead of having our “heroes” just be assholes to their parents.
Anyway, I was very happy for Kitty and Peik Lin, and honestly believe that Kitty’s growth throughout the series has been one of the strongest things these books have going for them. And while I was happy for Oliver, I think a little more growth/poverty would have suited him, as well. Also, Mr Kwan knows that not all Malay women, royal or otherwise, wear a head covering, right? Threads were wrapped up neatly even if, I dunno, I felt like the Astrid-Charlie thing got really weak towards the end and I don’t even know how to explain it. I think that, as with Nick and Rachel, their (or Mr Kwan’s) idea of Asian rebellion was to wind up being Western middle class. Which is very disappointing because a) that’s boringly cliched, and b) it’s possible to break the shackles of tradition without disrespecting the perfectly good ideals, a/o simply “aping the West”, to use a phrase that was done to death by critics of such when I was growing up. This could have been a lot better and wiser, like the works of fellow Singaporean Ovidia Yu, or the more overtly Austen-inspired Moni Mohsin. As it is, Rich People Problems is the perfectly respectable, conventional, dull finish to a series that started out full of satirical, witty promise. Worth reading for Kitty, and to see who inherits Tyersall Park, but not much else.