Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
A Novel

73%

8 Critic Reviews

He’s a writer to watch. He works high and low, and is as interesting to read on pop music as he is on finance or sibling rivalry.
-NY Times

Synopsis

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND BOOKPAGE

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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


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Tash Aw

See more books from this Author
TASH AW's debut novel, The Harmony Silk Factory, 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. He is also the author of Map of the Invisible World. Malaysian by birth, he now lives in London, and wrote this novel on a Fellowship in Shanghai.






Author Residence: London, UK






Author Hometown: Malaysia
 
Published July 2, 2013 by Spiegel & Grau. 416 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Five Star Billionaire
All: 8 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Aug 01 2013

He’s a writer to watch. He works high and low, and is as interesting to read on pop music as he is on finance or sibling rivalry.

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Aminatta Forna on Mar 08 2013

Still, it's a long book; and if there's a criticism to be made it is that the pace is too unvarying. Even where the narrative takes a dramatic turn...which though it succeeds in many ways somehow never quite leaves the page.

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Adam Mars-Jones on Feb 24 2013

...but the reading experience it offers is coolly engrossing – with elements of frustrating evasion – rather than propulsive.

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Julia Lovell on Jul 16 2013

... Mr. Aw has achieved something remarkable, populating an inhumane cityscape with intensely human characters.

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Ellah Allfrey on Jul 05 2013

Five Star Billionaire is a fiercely contemporary tale of tradition, modernity and the cost of progress.

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Jason Beerman on Jul 26 2013

...this tale of intersecting lives in a Chinese boomtown reveals how ambition can take root and persist in our globalized world, where cities with interchangeable monolithic skylines reflect the endless pursuit of wealth for the sake of wealth.

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from Toronto Star

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Jul 12 2013

It seems to me the author could just as well have tied up loose ends in his story, in the same way he could just as well have given his protagonists a measure of happiness or insight before the final paragraph. It wouldn’t hurt the novel.

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Jul 12 2013

...there’s no shortage of nerve in Tash Aw’s Shanghai, the biggest and most vibrant city in the world. In fact, the city, depicted by novelist Aw with its endless sprawl, its “behemoth” skyscrapers, its “harsh pollution,” is the novel’s main character, much more than the human protagonists...

Read Full Review of Five Star Billionaire: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for Five Star Billionaire
69%

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Malinda Charter

Malinda Charter 22 Jul 2014

Added the book to custom list '2013 NPR'

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