Five Star Billionaire Hardcover – 28 Feb 2013
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‘Aw's tale of five migrant workers carving out lives in a modernising Shanghai is the stuff of a hit TV miniseries … the reading experience it offers is coolly engrossing’ Adam Mars-Jones, Observer
‘A brilliant, sprawling, layered and unsentimental portrayal of contemporary China’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
'A fascinating cast of characters … a panoramic, expertly detailed painting of contemporary Shanghai' Sunday Times
‘“Five Star Billionaire” opens with a bang, not a whimper … Aw is a master storyteller and “Five Star Billionaire” can be read as “The Way We Live Now” for our times’ Aminatta Forna, Guardian
‘[Aw] is unmatched at evoking the smells and sounds of the land and cityscapes, the figures of speech and shifting cultural mores of that finger-like peninsula that pokes into the South China Sea …Their tales are told chapter by chapter, the characters slowly drawing closer together like flotsam in a vortex, before the stunning finale …There is wit here, and plenty of acute observation and characterisation’ Independent on Sunday
‘A new kind of immigrant novel. One that takes place in our increasingly mutlipolar world and is …a challenge to the old narrative’ Sunday Telegraph
‘The five characters are distinct, and Aw manages to bring them together well … Aw brilliantly recreates the intonations and vocabulary of someone educated only in Chinese’ Independent
‘Highly topical, sharply observed but affecting portmanteau novel’ Independent, ‘Books of the Year’
‘A splendid achievement. The narrative … is brilliantly designed, a puzzle whose pieces click satisfyingly into place – Aw’s book could scarcely be bettered’ Independent on Sunday
‘Aw’s style – terse but tender, lightly ironic without being snide – is fresh, bracing and, above all, compassionate. His characters … form profound impressions on the reader. One simply cares deeply what happens to them, and this skilled writer never makes that an easy matter to predict’ Scotsman
About the Author
Tash Aw was born in Taipei, in the Republic of China, and
brought up in Malaysia. He moved to England in his teens and
now lives in London. He is the author of ‘The Harmony Silk Factory’, which was the winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and ‘Map of the Invisible World’. His most recent novel, ‘Five Star Billionaire’, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013.
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Top Customer Reviews
The novel stars five people (do you see what Tash did there?) who all hope of becoming billionaires. They are all outsiders from Malaysia (though Gary the disenchanted rock star might also have connections with Taiwan) and have all pitched up in Shangai. Their pasts, presents and futures all seem intertwined in degrees of coincidence that would make Dickens blush.
The characters, and there are actually more than five of them, fall into three groups: the men, the women, and Gary. The men: Walter Chau, Justin, the Lims and others all seem much of a muchness. They want to get rich through property deals but have a sensitive side if you look. The women, too, are interchangeable with Phoebe, Yinghui and Yanyan seem to want to make money in the field of make-up, massage, lingerie and dating. You have to keep wide awake to remember which one is which because they sound the same, behave the same and think the same. Only Gary, the rock star who has run away from his management company and is holed up in a darkened flat looking at intimate internet sites offers any relief from the monotony.
As for the settings - the novel bounces from Shanghai to Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur. Yet these wonderful cities with their mix of sounds and smells could be anywhere. Where are the images of eaves full of chirping birds and loudspeakers broadcasting the call to prayer in the deeply Islamic city of Kota Bharu?Read more ›
Shanghai represents the speed with which the new China is changing and the city is portrayed as ruthless: "stand still for a moment and the river rushes past you". Phoebe depends on self-help books to realise her ambitions yet she, like the city, still tussles with age-old customs. "You must overturn all your old beliefs in order to succeed in life". Like so many of Shanghai's migrant workers, she leads "a floating life" and says, "We all have to do things that sully us while we wait for our real lives to happen."
Tash Aw was born in China, brought up in Malaysia and came to London in his teens. He knows all aspects of the turf and language. His prose is fluid, his paragraphs sustained and he summons up "the fast-forward glitter of Shanghai" convincingly. Certain aspects of his five key characters are contradictory and occasionally puzzling yet nevertheless the narrative compels you forward to a satisfying if guessable conclusion.
Phoebe, a girl determined to find a rich husband or boyfriend or at least someone who will buy her the latest designer handbag. She'll stop at nothing to get what she wants including lying and theft.
Justin, property magnet, his family have built a successful business which he inherited until it all goes wrong and he struggles to leave his rented flat. How will he re-build his life when so many people are gloating over his failure?
Gary, a superstar singer who won a talent competition and never looked back. When it all comes crashing down he turns to the internet to find a soul-mate and tries to re-build his life.
Yinghui, a successful business woman who has overcome tragedy to become her own woman, answerable to no one. But at what price?
Walter, a billionaire entrepreneur who writes self-help books to inspire the next generation. He wants to give something back to the community, money no object, will it succeed?
I liked the premise of this book, taking very different characters who seem to have nothing in common and then see how they find or walk past each other in life. My favourite character was Phoebe, she knew what she wanted, tried to get it and then found another path, ok she was a lying, cheating scumbag but at least she was honest with herself. The other characters, I could take or leave, they mostly annoyed me.
So that was what I liked about this book (not much), now onto what I didn't like.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I liked this book. I was interested in the characters although wondered if there was an overarching story that would bring them all together. The answer is not really. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nicole Baxby
Interesting to intimately see a part of the world i usually dont get to be a part of.Published 7 months ago by Talia
Very bitty and story line is very disjointed at times. Interesting to read about a different culture and story comes good at the end.Published 16 months ago by Smiler
Fundamentally depressing novel featuring several different characters in South East asia.Published 18 months ago by Woodford Mum
The weaving together of many lives in one city. Gentle and thoughtful.Published 19 months ago by Wendy Gibson
I gave up on this. Got about half way through & had absolutely no idea what it was about & no interest in finding out either. Awful.Published 20 months ago by Peggy G
I am only half way through. So far I have felt it is TOO disjointed, but I expect things will come together soon.Published 20 months ago by Naomi Phillips
Found myself very involved and absorbed in this book, the characters were very well drawn and forced you to think very hard about what they were trying to achieve. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Monique Doherty