Catty, brand-obsessed society matrons private-jetting away for a weekend of shopping. A gilded mansion that replicates the Palace of Versailles. A secret, sprawling family estate hidden even from Google Earth. An awe-inspiring $40-million wedding, complete with a custom Valentino gown for the bride, a celebrity and aristocracy-packed guest list and the Cirque du Soleil as entertainment during the private island reception.

This is the outlandish, fantastical, upper-crust world of wealth and conspicuous consumption depicted in Kevin Kwan's debut novel Crazy Rich Asians, a new release getting buzz as a delicious summer read.

The Manhattan-based author returns to the moneyed Asian enclaves of his youth to satirize its clashing cultures: old money versus the nouveau riche, honouring tradition versus moving with the times, younger generations fighting their elders to establish their own identities.

Singapore-born Kwan, who studied English literature as well as photography and design, conjures posh, lavishly detailed scenes peopled with characters both wicked and outrageous, yet also believable.

"My favourite description is 'It's The Real Housewives meets The Joy Luck Club,'" Kwan told CBC News.

"There's always been this tradition of satirizing these rich groups of people. No one, I think, has done it for Asia yet – from a Western perspective. So I wanted to tell this family drama, this romance, all wrapped up and set in, you know, the most fabulous parts of Asia.

In the video above, Kwan talks to CBC's Jessica Wong about his inspirations for Crazy Rich Asians, being an intimate observer of the ultra-wealthy and seeing Old World snobbery pop up in Asian Diaspora communities today.