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.
Bubby: I’ve been a little bored lately with the books I’ve been reading. Too much dystopian teenage angsty romance. I just wanted to read something different – something new, something that I couldn’t predict the ending of 50 pages into the story. Well heck dang did I get different. The Moonlight Palace is based on a true story. It was just so interesting. I really want to do some more research now and find out what happened to the family and the Kampong Glam palace after the book ended.
Sissy: That’s it, Bubby! You need to break out your VISA card and buy us a trip to Singapore. We can do research and go to the beach and write blogs that will be much more interesting than if we wrote them here. Why are you still sitting there?
Bubby: I don’t want to go to Singapore. It sounds scary. With weird food. And I have no money.
Sissy: Such a buzz kill. I don’t know why I haven’t disowned you yet.
Bubby: Because without me you just have brothers. And what fun is that?
Sissy: Right. Back to the Moonlight Palace. Somebody recently told me that they didn’t like any books or movies that weren’t full of action and fast-paced drama. I felt bad for them because they are missing out on some wonderful stories; stories where you have to sit still and ease into them and before you know it, you find yourself immersed in color, culture, history, moments of joy, beautiful characters and loving relationships. The Moonlight Palace is one of those, and evoked for me visions of bold saffron, tropical green and bindi red. I could smell the curry and chinese noodles. I could hear Chinese, Indian, and British accents. I loved the multi-cultural aspect of Agnes’ family and Agnes herself. I loved each eccentric character.
Bubby: Oh, the characters! They are fantastic! We’ve got British Grandfather, who is married to Nei-Nei Down (not be confused with Nei-Nei Up). Nei-Nei means Grandmother, if you were wondering. Except Nei-Nei Up is Agnes’ great-aunt, not grandmother, and is married to Uncle Chachi. And then there are the boarders who rent a room in the great crumbling ruin of a palace, as well as the servants who really are just as much family as anyone else. No one has anywhere else to go, so they just all stick it out together in their genteel impoverishment.
Sissy: There are also benevolent outsiders like Mr. Kahani, Mr. Singh and Adrian James, to name a few. This is such a lovely portrait of a bygone era, while still holding timeless values such as family and honor. It made me want to go to Singapore (unlike other people who are scaredy-cats) and try to find remnants of this time.
Bubby: I’m happy to go to 1920 Singapore. Maybe I’d even enjoy modern Singapore. Who knows? What I do know is that The Moonlight Palace is every bit as magical as the title suggests. One of my new favorites.
Sissy: Even as magical as the cover looks!
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