Sporting one of the greatest names in literature, Kitty Pong steals Alistair Cheng's heart and leaves it at Bernard Tai's feet. Almost literally.
Kitty is a wild lady, her reputation about starring in an adult film preceding her. She is unabashed about anything, including her nipples, and will introduce herself to the richest-looking person in the room. While Kitty in and of herself isn't the worst character we've seen, she represents all the most shallow people who aspire to be apart of the wealthy elite. She is what Eleanor Young is afraid. She is what every wealthy mother is afraid.
Covert jeweler extraordinaire, Stephen Chia provides Astrid with a safe refuge and a place to drop loads of cash to make herself feel better. The two met in Paris at a very young age, bonding over their unusual circumstances: "a teenage Singapore girl interested in eighteenth-century cameos" and "a young Chinese man behind the counter at a joaillier as distinguished as Mellerio dits Meller" (1.15.4).
Over the years the two have become friends to the point where Stephen can read Astrid's moods. He unwittingly makes matters worse for Astrid, however, when he asks about a bracelet Michael bought for her birthday. Uh, what bracelet?
Colin's sister Sophie is another one of the rare, rich but down-to-earth crew in the novel. She attributes this to the untimely death of her mother. "It allowed me to get away from the frying pan. After my mum died, I was sent to school in Australia, and I stayed there all through uni" (2.13.41). (Uni means university, by the way).
She's a surgeon who doesn't "have the time to go to benefit parties in hotels" and chooses to prioritize her patients (2.11.73). When she arrives at Araminta's bachelorette weekend, she and Rachel quickly take a liking to each other, with Sophie revealing that Astrid had told Sophie to keep an eye out for Rachel. Sophie becomes a lifeline at the bachelorette weekend, helping Rachel navigate through the foreign world of social elite who are looking to get Rachel "hysterical and ruin Araminta's bachelorette party" (2.13.13).
Nick's father and the only son of Shang Su Yi, Philip is one of the more laidback characters in the novel, and we see where Nick gets his looks and his attitude from. He spends most of his time in Sydney, Australia, as we come to find out, to get away with all the drama in his family. Hey, Phil, we would, too.
He primarily functions as a voice of common sense, attempting, at least, to keep Eleanor's craziness in check (he fails there) and illustrating that not all rich people are nutty.
It's a total bummer that he isn't a stronger character. If Philip did a little more than just fish off the coast of Australia and fall asleep in front of Battlestar Galactica, maybe his mom and wife wouldn't ruin so many lives!
One of Nick's aunts who lives in England, Victoria is a sister of Philip and carries herself with a sense of importance. When she comes for the Khoo wedding, Eleanor is excited to see Victoria snub Rachel as she had done when she first met Eleanor.
Two reasons this doesn't work: 1) Kitty Pong shows up and makes Rachel look like an angel; and 2) Victoria still doesn't like Eleanor. When Eleanor complains about Rachel, Victoria instead highlights all the wonderful qualities about Rachel, taking "care to mention all the things Eleanor was not" (3.8.26).
Victoria is by no means a hero, but she at least provides a deeper understanding of how Eleanor fits into the family and why she acts the way she does.
Radio One Asia, as the family calls her, is one of the "imperial Shangs" who no one is "supposed to ever talk about" (2.2.126). She supposedly has spies all around the globe and is able to disseminate gossip quicker than you can blink.
She serves little purpose other than to help spread the news of Rachel Chu to Eleanor, sending Eleanor into her spiral of madness to figure out who Rachel is. Like Victoria, she has little to say to Rachel until Kitty Pong shows up, then she is happy to welcome Rachel to the family as a way to ice Alistair and Kitty.
Astrid's crew includes her mother Felicity, father Harry, and brothers Henry Jr., Peter, and Alexander. Felicity is the oldest of Shang Su Yi and James Young's children, and carries with her a sense of responsibility about her status. She is not frivolous with money; heck, she "said it was a sin to take a taxi nine blocks and forced everyone to walk" in the rain (P.1). Her husband Harry, of the Leongs who control commerce in Singapore, has many moneys.
Overall, the Leongs seem to be a close family, getting together for dinners regularly at the Colonial Club. But there's a sense of distance between family members, as well. As Astrid and Michael's relationship deteriorates, much because of how the Leongs treat Michael, she doesn't tell them, but instead goes to elaborate measures to keep up appearances that things are still okay.
The Chengs are responsible for creating Edison, Cecilia, and Alistair. While Dr. Malcolm Cheng, the famed heart surgeon, and his clever wife Alexandra (Alix) appear to be dutiful parents who take "inspecting" their children and grandchildren very carefully, their children aren't great.
Eddie is terrible, Cecilia is a "full-time mother" but spends more time with her horses than her son, and Alistair is a playboy entertaining the love of a fast-and-loose soap opera star.
Their family dynamic doesn't offer us much different insight into the world of the wealthy other than children will grow up and toot their own horn when the world is on a platter for them.
These ladies get lumped together as they are little more than vapid social climbers that gossip about shopping, clothes, and money. They represent the warning that Dr. Gu offers: "Prosperity is nothing but an illusion" (2.16.25). These women have little to offer other than a frivolous concern for money, and when one of them "falls from grace" (Francesca Shaw), "Wandi Meggaharto and Parker Yeo" drop her like a bad habit" (3.19.19). Some friends.
These guys get lumped together as they, too, are preoccupied with name-dropping and doing the things that big money can buy. There are two notable exceptions: Mehmet Sabançi and Lionel Khoo. These two gentlemen fall into the crowd with Colin, Nick, and Alistair in terms of down-to-earthness and not falling for all the glitz Bernard wants to offer. Bernard's friends remind us that these young men are far more common than they appear in this novel; Nick and his crew seem to be the exception.