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Five Star Billionaire: A Novel Hardcover – July 2, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
The problem -- or perhaps the point -- of this novel is, after a while, the strivers and the wannabes begin to blend together in a patina of sameness, threads in the fabric of Shanghai. Each of Tash Aw's characters is searching for success and wealth, which won't necessarily equate with happiness. Each arrives in Shanghai with an amorphous identity, looking to the city to define who he or she is. And each carries the seeds of self-destruction, with the inability to engage in deep introspection. Each, in a word, is false and often self-deceptive. As one character says, "There is not one aspect of myself that I haven't lied about."
Phoebe is a factory girl in rural Malaysia, determined to reinvent herself and make it big in Shanghai. The way to a real success for her is to accumulate the fake accoutrements that Shanghai is known for: a fake LV (read: Louis Vuitton) purse, a fake "expensive" watch, and so on. She is, for me, the most compelling of the characters and perhaps the one with the most to gain -- or lose; a woman on the make in a city on the make. In ways, she embodies Shanghai itself: "In this world, everyone is always looking for something better. Nothing they have is good enough. As soon as they achieve their goals,they want something more. Always more and more and more.Read more ›
The stories of Phoebe, Justin, Gary, and Yinhui in that order until the last few chapters in which the sequence is interrupted. Walter appears periodically as the writer of a series of articles on becoming a billionaire. Each of the five, of course, have appearances when their story intersects with another's.
The author can also be considered a personality as an omniscient observer, especially in the especially humorous chapter 7.
This is a complex novel, but easy and vastly enjoyable reading. This is the first book by the author that I've read. It's not likely to be the last. The Chinese (rather than American) structure is noticeable, but doesn't in the least detract from anyone's enjoyment of the total story.
First the positives:
This is a sweeping and timely novel. The author takes us to the brittle glitter and glamour of what is arguably one of the most sophisticated cities in the world. Although I've never been to Shanghai, it's on my travel list and I feel like I know it after reading this book. Shanghai is a character unto itself here. It lives and breathes.
In addition, the author is well spoken. The book is intelligently written and the characters are complex. Rather than a beach read, the book demands you pay attention to it.
So why didn't I love it?
In spite of the timeliness of the book, it felt somewhat dated. I know that's a bit of a paradox, but it reminded me very much of the way that people used to talk about New York. All the books and movies where the small town kid would move to the big city, forget who they really were, and let the city break them. A little Valley of the Dolls meets A Chorus Line (without the lush musical numbers).
The book depressed me a little. Shanghai, with all its glitz and glamour seemed to be that city that would break you down and eat you alive. In spite of money and fame, none of the characters seemed to ever be happy or really find what they wanted or needed.
I leave this at four stars. It is a very good, well-written book. However, now I feel like I need to read something about puppies and rainbows.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
No descriptive writing, just a lot of dialogue and bare bones description of the surroundimgs. The story goes on forever, long after you've stopped caring aboit the characters. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kim an Amazon Customer
Great book to see how the other half lives in china and waht they had to do to get there.Published 4 months ago by Jacob Azizi
As the summary says, Tash Aw’s Five Star Billionaire is comprised of five main characters, all trying to find success in Shanghai. Hint: They don’t. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent read! I had hard work in concentrating to tie the ends!Published 7 months ago by Victoria Habib
I really enjoyed this, much more than similar books. I am a college composition teacher and have read this with 3 different classes. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Love 2 read
Interesting topic and well written but not really"my cup of tea"Published 14 months ago by Brigitte Kestermann