was longlisted for the McKitterick Prize!


of the Historical Fiction Category


It’s August of 1931 in Singapore, sixteen-year-old Lim Mei Mei (Ah Mei) arrives at the home of Eminent Mister Lee on the eve of the Hungry Ghost Month. She has been sold to the family as a mui tsai, an indentured servant girl. At the Lee household, Lim Mei Mei’s life education begins. There she encounters the spirit of Ah Lian, a mui tsai, who paid the ultimate price for her mistake. Through Ah Lian, Ah Mei discovers the plight of the mui tsai, who are both helpless and powerful, and uncovers a shameful secret lurking in the shadows of the Lee house. Ah Mei also meets and falls in love with Hassan Mohamed, an Indian-Muslim and an aspiring poet, breaking every clause in the rule book of love in 1930s British Malaya. She becomes Hassan’s Polar Star, and the young lovers must find a way to stay together. Through a twist of fate, Ah Mei finds a solution that will keep her and Hassan together, at the same time gaining agency that will secure her own future as an uneducated servant girl in British Malaya.


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For orders in the UK

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For orders in Singapore

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- Karien van Ditzhuijzen, author of A Yellow House -

“This is the most flavourful book! First we are served mouth-watering Nyonya dishes, but then the taste turns bitter. Bitter like the Chinese medicine girls sip to stem a bleed. The House of Little Sisters brings to life an often forgotten time, a time were little girls were sold to work in the big houses of rich Peranakan families. They face rape, exploitation, and loneliness. Thankfully, Eva Wong Nava also shows us love, hope, and change in the air for girls like Mei Mei. This book is an eye opening window into the lives of Singapore’s mui tsai, that I highly recommend to teenagers and their parents alike.”

- E.S. Alexander, award-winning non-fiction writer and author of historical novel, Lies That Blind -

“In this fresh and richly-detailed YA historical novel, Eva Wong Nava helps to expose Western readers, in particular, to the culture of 1930s British Malaya, exposing new audiences not only to words like Peranakan and Pontianak, but to the plight of the young mui tsai sold as indentured servants into homes like that of “Number One Madam”, where they must struggle against the prevailing norms to find any semblance of happiness, contentment, or sense of identity.”

- Felix Cheong, award-winning author of Sprawl: A Graphic Novel -

“An engrossing read…a testimony of Eva Wong Nava’s attention to period details and exquisite storytelling skills”

- Dave Seow, children’s book author of more than 45 books -

“A beautiful, haunting visceral experience. You’ll savour the sights, sounds and smells of pre-WW II Singapore and be mesmerized by a cast of characters as delicately layered and sumptuously rich as a delicious kueh lapis. If this book were a dish, it would deserve five Michelin Stars. Eva Wong-Nava cooks up a special tale that will be savoured by generations to come.”

- Daryl Kho, author of Mist-bound -

 “A haunting feast for the senses.”

- Vivian Teo, author of the My BFF Is an Alien series -

“A riveting and masterfully crafted historical fiction.”

- Audrey Chin, author of The Ash House -

“This is an exciting piece of historical fiction anchored by relatable characters, and is the best way to experience the past.”

- Dave Chua, author of Gone Case -

“A novel rich in historical detail and memorable characters. Tautly paced and extensively researched.’”

- Sim Ee Waun, author of The House on Silat Road & The House on Palmer Road -

“Riveting and impossible to put down! Such a beautiful, exciting, bittersweet story of old Nanyang that is suffused with longing and nostalgia. The cast of characters come alive through Eva’s masterful storytelling, and we see the story unfold through their eyes like a waking dream. Absolutely loved it!”

Kopi Soh, author of Looking After the Ashes

“The House of Little Sisters is full of very familiar cultural elements. I especially liked the description of “pintu pagar” in the Peranakan household and what was its purpose. The market scene brought back memories. Transporting me back to when I was a child holding on to my mother’s hand tightly as we maneuvered the busy wet market. And than there was the dreaded chicken place where the necks of the chosen chicken was slit and thrown into the defeathering machine still squawking. Eva’s description of the Peranakans made me smile, it was funnily accurate “the wealthy ones stick to one another like flies to rotten meat. They’re Chinese but not Chinese. Speak Malay but are not Malay. Eat pork… pray to Chinese gods but act like Europeans.” This historical fiction also brought forth to my attention the existence of the 1932 Mui Tsai Ordinance which prohibits the acquisition of Mui Tsai. Overall I truly enjoyed reading this book. Oh last but not least I learned that the Roti John (a food I had no idea existed till a few years ago) was invented in the 1970s. Apparently by an American sailor who had requested a South Asian hawker to make him a hamburger. If you can do add this book to your 2022 reading list. You won’t regret it.”

Lesley Smith, English teacher & Storyteller

“I enjoyed the book very much. I thought the characters were really engaging and I learned a lot about a culture which was previously unknown to me. I loved the details about the food and clothing and really felt for the young lovers having to meet in that horrible smelly alley.”

Catherine Dellosa

“The House of Little Sisters hooks you in from the very beginning with the way Eva Wong Nava crafts a specific time in history and adds her own twist to it. Ah Mei’s gripping tale touches upon issues that will definitely tug at the heartstrings, whether it’s about the giddiness of young love or the horrific realities of a mui tsai during that period in time.

What makes the book even more compelling is how masterfully Nava offers readers such vivid imagery from different cultures. Reading through her work is almost like taking a guided trip through echoes of the past.

I’m not big into historical fiction, but reading Nava’s work has made me realise what I’ve been missing. I’m definitely looking forward to more of her works in the future!”