Source: Lake Union Publishing and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 174 pgs
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The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg is set in 1920s Singapore, and Agnes Hussein is a teenager living in a rundown family palace, known as Kampong Glam. The palace is a symbol of the cooperation of among the British and her long dead ancestors, but some view the palace as symbol of bribery by the British. She is not Singaporean only, but also part British and part Chinese. Her family is eccentric, and to make ends meet, the family relies on her British grandfather’s pension and the small sum they earn from their equally eccentric borders. Rosenberg has created a character in Agnes who is a bit all over the place in her thoughts and in her actions, much like real teens, and she’s the strongest part of the novel.
“Perhaps, in order to start afresh, we needed to do away with all the old structures, the old assumptions. Would these precious old things need to be torn down in order to make way for the new? I had to admit to myself in all honesty that I did not know the answer.” (page 146 ARC)
While there are elements of the 1920s in the novel such as Agnes’ comments on her own hairstyle and clothes, there is little else to suggest the time period, other than her grandfather’s triumphs in the Great War. Agnes is naive in many ways about men and the political workings of her home nation. She is like most teens; she falls quickly in love, is blind to the loyalty right in front of her, and is oblivious to the plights and machinations of those around her. While a quick and easy read, the reader could feel separate from the characters and the main action of the novel, and the novel may have been better served with a focus on the grandfather or her uncle.
The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg is a coming of age novel that draws in some elements of Singapore and the 1920s, and Agnes is a typical teenager trying to make her own way in the world without offending tradition and without giving up her own dreams. While she is naive about the larger world around her, she remains loyal to her family and her ancestry as she strives to earn money enough to help keep up their home. With a little more background on the 1920s and the relationship between Britain and Singapore, this novel could have been fantastic, but as it is, it was just a good read about a young teen growing up.
About the Author:
Liz Rosenberg is the author of more than thirty award-winning books, including novels and nonfiction for adults, poetry collections, and books for young readers. She has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Paterson Prize, the Bank Street Award, the Center for the Book Award, and a Fulbright fellowship in Northern Ireland in 2014. She is a professor of English and creative writing at Binghamton University, in upstate New York, where she has received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has guest-taught all over the United States and abroad, and has written a book column for the Boston Globe for the past twenty-five years. Her previous novels, Home Repair and The Laws of Gravity, have been bestsellers in the United States, Europe, and Canada. She and her husband, David, were raised on Long Island, and went to the same summer camp at ages seven and eight, respectively.
34th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.
67th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.