Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Five Star Billionaire / Tash Aw / 400 pgs

This is the very last book I had to read for a #ReadHarder challenge (read a book by an author from southeastern Asia) and I have to admit that it was a hard challenge to fulfill. I started and stopped two other books that would have fit the category before finally starting and finishing this one. I don't blame the other two books, as it seems very little is holding my attention lately.

What I liked about the book: I learned a lot about Shanghai and immigration to China. We hear a lot about immigration to America, both legally and illegally, but it's interesting to learn about how other countries absorb people from neighboring countries. The story is modern, lots of reference to the internet and other pop culture items, although for an American, the references to Chinese pop culture can be a bit confusing. Also, it was a fast read despite its length.

What I disliked about the book: The book focuses on four different characters, all of them Malaysian (like the author). All of them have moved to Shanghai to have a better life. Phoebe is invited to come to Shanghai where she has a job waiting for her. When she gets there, she discovers the job is no longer available and she is forced to figure out other means to make a living. Justin is the son of a wealthy real estate developer. He becomes overwhelmed with his work and family demands, so he goes into hiding in a city of over 23 million people. Gary is a pop star who falls from grace when his innocent persona is dismantled after he is filmed in a bar fight. Yinghui is an up-and-coming business woman. Behind the scenes is Walter Chao, the "five star billionaire" in the title of the book. The story shifts between the characters. To be honest, a couple of the characters were not at all interesting to me and I found myself wishing their parts would be a bit shorter.

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