Published by Lake Union Publishing on October 1st, 2014
Genres: adult, historical
Source: Book Tour
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Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.
Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.
I don’t usually expect much from short novels. I think in under 200 pages it is tough to build character personalities, atmosphere, and all the other important novel components that make a book a memorable one for me. With The Moonlight Palace, I enjoyed it, but I did find that I did not connect to the characters at all. When I look back on this book a few months from now, what I will remember will be the palace and the jewelry store, not any of the characters or plot.
Not that that is a bad thing. Settings may not be a big thing for many readers, but they are for me. I really want to read more books set in Singapore, so if commenters have any recommendations, please feel free to list them.
I think the historical aspects of the story were done well also. Weirdly enough though, I have to state that sometimes, while I was reading, I almost felt like I was reading a book set in the present. And then something would happen that reminded me of the time period the book was taking place in, and I was back on board. I think historical novels should always feel like you are reading a book set in the past.
So to give you a basic idea of the plot, Aggie and her extended family live in the Kampong Glam Palace, which was given to them in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British. She has a British grandfather that is an heir and the reason they continue to live in the palace. But it’s crumbling and they can’t afford the upkeep, and they are trying to figure out a solution.
And that’s the basic gist of it without spoiling anything, not that there is anything to spoil. The book is short, and the plot is kind of basic. It’s predictable, and there are no surprises. So you are not reading this book for any strong emotions, you are reading it for its subtlety and your love of the historical. I chose to read it because I enjoy most Asian fiction, and I enjoyed the writing very much.
I do feel the ending was rushed though. I can’t talk about it without spoiling the conclusion, but new characters enter the story and it is resolved rather quickly. This was odd to read because I felt the rest of the book took its time to get where it was going.
Still, I am happy to recommend this book to readers, especially if you like fiction set in Asia, and in a country that is oft overlooked.
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Moonlight Palace to give away to a US/CA reader. You must be 13 or older to enter.
No cheating. One email address per household, and I do check!
Giveaway ends 10/12/14.
Enter using the Rafflecopter form below: