I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get to this book. I’ve been a fan of Mohsin Hamid since his debut novel, Moth Smoke. It was fresh and edgy and unlike anything else I had read coming out of South Asia. In his second novel, The Reluctant Fundementalist, which was also made into a film, he confronted some difficult issues regarding religion in America in the post 9/11 years. Hamid has always written distinctive novels and How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is no different.
In some ways the style of How to Get Rich is a little disarming at first. It is a novel written as a self help book in the second person. That means Hamid addresses the reader as ‘you’ throughout. This is a difficult style to pull off, but Hamid does it. He leads the reader through various steps on the road to wealth, without sacrificing the narrative drive of the story. I was also worried that this style would make the characters seem distant, but that is not the case at all.
The other thing I appreciated about the novel was the time it took for the main character to actually achieve success. This was not a fictional get rich quick scheme. It took the protagonist a lifetime to get to where he wanted to be and luck and hard work were the two key component in finding success.
Who would like this book? This is a novel that tells the reader a lot about the culture of business in South Asia. I remember when The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga came out, it was recommended to business people working in South Asia. I think How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia could go into a similar category. It also fits nicely along side Five Star Billionaire (my review), Tash Aw’s latest novel about making it in Shanghai. But don’t let the above comments leave you with the impression that How To Get Rich is only about business. It is, at it’s heart, about human relationships and finding love. The story is rather poignant and comes full circle.