Five Star Billionaire: Book summary and reviews of Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw

Five Star Billionaire

A Novel

By Tash Aw

Five Star Billionaire
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2013,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Five Star Billionaire is hard to beat.... 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

"Tash Aw's brilliant new novel focuses on four Malaysian immigrants, all determinedly on the make.... The unputdownable story of how these lives interconnect and touch upon the billionaire of the title, a shadowy avenging angel, is played out against the noisy, glitzy backdrop of a society on the cusp between abandoning old values and embracing a lifestyle as flashy as its neon glow." - Daily Mail (UK)
 
"Aw is a master storyteller and Five Star Billionaire can be read as The Way We Live Now for our times.... [It is a story] of lives lost and found, of the transience of material success and the courage required to hope and to trust again, to forgive oneself and to believe in the possibility of love." - The Guardian (UK)
 
"An innovative novel of the twenty-first-century immigrant experience... a new kind of immigrant novel." - The Telegraph (UK)
 
"Engrossing... seductive." - The Observer (UK)
 
"A must-read... Exciting plot twists and page-turning drama are aplenty.... In the end, the novel has a hopeful tone - when everything appears bleak there's always a silver lining, and you are the only one who can take charge of your own fate." - The Star (Malaysia)
 
"Few people can write about a place with both the astute observation of an outsider and the deep understanding of an insider. When the place is Shanghai, and when that writer is Tash Aw, we get a novel that is as multifaceted as the city itself, in which stories of the old and the new, the rich and the poor, the dreaming and the disillusioned, are woven together by a master storyteller. Tash Aw is an essential voice for the global world we live in today." - Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

"Starred Review. A literary victory... Think of Aw's third novel as an ingenious game called 'How To Be a Billionaire.'... The playing board is Shanghai, that twenty-first-century city of limitless possibility; the power broker is the epyonymous Five Star Billionaire. A quartet of players... are revealed one by one.... Aw moves fluidly between past and present, creating a multilayered narrative about chasing, catching, and sometimes losing elusive opportunities." - Library Journal

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Author Information

Tash Aw Author Biography

Tash Aw was born in Taipei to Malaysian-Chinese parents and grew up in Kuala Lumpar. He moved to England at 18 to attend university, where he studied Law at Cambridge and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

He first began work on The Harmony Silk Factory (2005) in the evenings and at weekends until, in 2002, he left his job as a lawyer to work on the novel full time. It was finished a year later, nearly five years after he began the book.

The Harmony Silk Factory won the 2005 Whitbread First Novel Award and a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel, as well as being long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Tash Aw is now a full time writer. His second novel Map of the Invisible World, set in post independence Malaysia and Indonesia, was published in the UK...

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