Five Star Billionaire
By Tash Aw
(Spiegel & Grau, Hardcover, 9780812994346, 400pp.)
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
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LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND BOOKPAGE
An expansive, eye-opening novel that captures the vibrancy of China today
Phoebe is a factory girl who has come to Shanghai with the promise of a job—but when she arrives she discovers that the job doesn’t exist. Gary is a country boy turned pop star who is spinning out of control. Justin is in Shanghai to expand his family’s real estate empire, only to find that he might not be up to the task. He has long harbored a crush on Yinghui, a poetry-loving, left-wing activist who has reinvented herself as a successful Shanghai businesswoman. Yinghui is about to make a deal with the shadowy Walter Chao, the five star billionaire of the novel, who with his secrets and his schemes has a hand in the lives of each of the characters. All bring their dreams and hopes to Shanghai, the shining symbol of the New China, which, like the novel’s characters, is constantly in flux and which plays its own fateful role in the lives of its inhabitants.
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.
Praise for Five Star Billionaire
“Estimable . . . artful . . . Mr. Aw is a patient writer, and an elegant one. His supple yet unshowy prose can resemble Kazuo Ishiguro’s. . . . He’s a writer to watch.”—The New York Times
“In Five Star Billionaire, the Taiwanese-born, Malaysian writer Tash Aw chooses a refreshingly novel perspective. . . . Through five distinct Malaysian-Chinese voices, Mr. Aw wonderfully expresses the grit and cosmopolitan glamour of Shanghai today. . . . Mr. Aw has done more than merely satirize a social milieu; he has created a cast of compelling characters, all of whom have come to Shanghai to remake themselves, yet are haunted by their pasts in ways that they barely understand. . . . In Five Star Billionaire, Mr. Aw has achieved something remarkable.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Aw’s] ever-spiraling web of connections is as improbable as it is entertaining, but he knits his various threads with an elegance . . . coupled with a photorealistic eye for the minutiae of urban life.”—The Boston Globe
“The ambition of the book perfectly reflects its subject. In one scene, we’re introduced to a ‘folk guitarist whose slangy lyrics spoke of urban migration and loneliness.’ Aw might be describing himself, except that his threnodies are set to sophisticated modern jazz.”—Pico Iyer, Time
“Goes beyond the bounds of the ordinary . . . [Aw] provides a richly drawn landscape of compelling characters, and a deep immersion in their lives. . . . Five Star Billionaire is a fiercely contemporary tale of tradition, modernity and the cost of progress.”—Ellah Allfrey, All Things Considered, NPR
“Aw has woven an impressive and contemporary human tapestry of a country that Western audiences would do well to better understand.”—The Daily Beast
Tash Aw's Five Star Billionaire, set in Shanghai, explores the dynamic tumult of that city. Reviewer Ellah Allfrey says that Aw, with gentle compassion and keen understanding, shows his characters succumb to the lure of a city where everything seems possible. More at NPR.org
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