Funny how I was introduced to this novel because of a quote I saw on the Internet. And then now that I have finished reading it, I have no idea what the quote was. Am I that old already?
The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg
Published on: 1 October 2014
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Add it on: Goodreads
Buy it on: Amazon | Kindle | Book Depository
Favorite quote: “The secret to those who write is that they come to the art simply because they cannot speak.”
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’m wide aware that, in Goodreads, this is mainly shelved as Historical Fiction. While that is true, you can see above that I labeled it firstly as Young Adult. And this is not only because of the seventeen-year-old protagonist but also because of the overall vibe of the story.
Agnes is a teenager. And she is clearly so. She isn’t entirely aware of her surroundings, she isolates herself in her own bubble of blissfulness and worldly interests.
I’m not saying all teenagers are like this. But we can’t deny this is a typical characteristic of a teenager. I should know. I’ve been there. I’m still partly there.
And I could have tolerated it in small doses. But the way Agnes is going, so obtuse that she can’t see clearly what’s in front of her, it ruined the book for me slightly.
Another thing that I didn’t like about this book is some of the character depth and development. The supporting characters like Nei-Nei Down, Uncle Chachi, Dawid and British Grandfather were great. And I liked them a lot all throughout the book.
I also liked Mr Kahani but there’s a mystery fogging this character—and it’s in a bad way. We are given this interesting character and then the author revealed a new attribute of his, making him more interesting. But then snap! We don’t know what happened to him anymore.
I didn’t like that. I still don’t. I’ve invested plenty on knowing what’s going to happen to him but I wasn’t satisfied.
What I did like about the novel was its backdrop. Although I don’t read a lot of historical fictions, I do enjoy them a lot. It’s not just travelling to other places but also to another time. I love how the backdrop is in Asia, in a time in Singapore when they start merging Western culture into their own traditional ones.
I also liked this one particular confession. I’m not going to say who are involved but I will tell you that it was short yet very moving and so sweet. It was one of the best scenes in the book, in my opinion.
That said, The Moonlight Palace was an okay read. There were good parts but then the bad ones were too huge and the book didn’t really reach the expectation I subconsciously had when I read that forgotten quote.