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August 13, 2013 / Leslie

Review: Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw

Five Star Billionaire by Tash AwFive Star Billionaire
by Tash Aw

Genre: Contemporary Literature/China
[Man Booker Prize Nominee for Longlist (2013)]
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publish Date: July 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover | 400 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Five Star Billionaire is a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel that offers rare insight into the booming world of Shanghai, a city of elusive identities and ever-changing skylines, of grand ambitions and outsize dreams. Bursting with energy, contradictions, and the promise of possibility, Tash Aw’s remarkable new book is both poignant and comic, exotic and familiar, cutting-edge and classic, suspenseful and yet beautifully unhurried.

My Thoughts:

Five Star Billionaire is about five young people each dreaming of success and hoping to find it in Shanghai. Phoebe, a factory worker, reinvents herself by pretending to be an accomplished business woman to attract rich men. Gary is a pop star trying to reignite his failing career. Justin has been tasked by his family to manage their real estate empire, but finds it is more than he can handle. Yinghui is a successful business woman eager to expand into new and risky ventures. Walter Chao, the successful, elusive billionaire, touches the lives of each of them.

The novel is written in alternating chapters about each of the five characters using a third person narrative for the four young people. Walter Chao’s story is written in the first person. Although these are mostly separate, loosely interconnected stories, it works well as a novel. The city of Shanghai is the real connection.

The style of the novel is slow and reflective allowing the reader to gradually get to know each of these five complex characters. As the story builds, their lives begin to intersect and relationships, past and present, are exposed. Tying them together is the city of Shanghai, shifting and changing, a character in itself. Their stories felt real. There is no happily ever after although there are good times as well as bad. The characters are traveling through a period of their lives where they learn and grow, and we see hope for their futures.

This was a thoughtful, enjoyable book outside my usual reading choices. A fascinating glimpse at booming New China and the allure of Shangahi.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher and LibraryThing.
© 2013 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. BermudaOnion / Aug 13 2013 9:49 am

    This sounds interesting but I wonder if it would be too slow for me.


    • Leslie / Aug 13 2013 9:52 am

      It’s slow paced but engaging. And because I don’t know that much about China, it held my interest.


  2. debbierodgers / Aug 13 2013 11:55 am

    This sounds like the kind of story I love! I haven’t read anything about Shanghai, so it will be fun to learn – thanks for the tip!


  3. Vicki / Aug 13 2013 1:39 pm

    This sounds really good, and I’ve never read anything that takes place in Shanghai, so I’m Pinning it now!



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