Given that I’ve talked twice in the last week about how much I like books about Rich People Problems, I thought it was finally time for me to finish that post about that sort of novel – given that it’s more than a year since my round up of non-fiction books about the same sort of thing.
Firstly, what do I mean when I say Rich People Problems? Well it’s hard to put my finger on exactly, but I’m talking about the sort of novel where the characters are living the sort of lives that most of us can only dream of – and the problems they have are less imminent risk of death or destruction and more can’t afford a summer house in the fashionable resort any more/why is it so hard to be rich. Often you’re looking at their lives through the prism of an outsider – or a newly arrived person in the group, like you are with Sasha in Pineapple Street.
That’s also the case with Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians, which is probably the book in this category that most people have heard of (or watched the film of) where Rachel Chu heads off to Singapore to go to a wedding with her boyfriend, only to discover that he’s a member of one of the richest families in the city state and part of a whole hierarchy of old money/new money rivalries that she’s got to try and navigate. It’s a trilogy and although the first one is my favourite, they’re all brilliant for reading on a sunlounger (which is one of my favourite times to read this sort of book!). It’s success spawned a whole host of other similar books of which I’ve read a few (including Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho) but you could also probably say Dial A for Aunties is adjacent to this, as the billionaire wedding that they’re catering is for a very similar sort of family to the ones Rachel meets in Singapore.
The people in it aren’t as rich as the Singapore set, but Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers is also a Rich People Problems novel, except all the rich people in it are Hipsters. This is about a group of friends who were in a band together in their youth but as their kids leave home, their lives start to unravel and long buried secrets start to come to light. If books about people who can afford to privately educate their kids despite not always having a job annoy you, then maybe don’t read this. If you do like that sort of thing (and you can tell from this post that I do!) then fill your boots with this! See also Straub’s other novel The Vacationers, which sees a family summer in Mallorca go not entirely according to plan. Where’d You Go Bernadette could probably also go on this list, although it’s sort of hard to explain why without spoiling the plot of the book – but it’s definitely not the sort of life that most of us have.
In YA, Katherine McGee’s American Royals probably fits into this genre too – the premise is that when American gained independence, they set up their own royal family, and you’re following the latest generation as they try to grapple with their inheritance. It’s much broader in characterisation than some of the other books I’ve mentioned here – and importantly – it is the first in a series and doesn’t have a resolution to any of the major strands so read at your peril/depending on your preferences on that front. Also in YA, as I said in my BotW post about it back in 2020, Meg Rosoff’s The Great Godden is Rich people Problems adjacent.
And there you are – that’s your lot today. I’ve stuck to contemporary novels rather than historical stuff – I mean you could basically count any historical romance as Rich People Problems in a way. And I’ve resisted the urge to recommend Eligible again (oops) although you could probably pick a Pride and Prejudice retelling of your choice in here too, and this has reminded me of a bunch of stuff I have waiting on the shelves to be read that could fit this post – so there may yet be a part two!
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