Past Events

[Book Launch & Discussion] In A New Light: Rediscovering the life and times of Francis Light in the Penang Chronicles

Book Launch & Discussion
In A New Light: Rediscovering the life and times of Francis Light in the Penang Chronicles, an evening with the author, Rose Gan

Date: 8 December 2023, Friday
Time: 8.00 pm – 9.30 pm
Venue: Penang Institute, 10 Brown Road, 10350 George Town

About the books

The story of Captain Francis Light and his life partner Martinha Rozells is well known to us all – or is it? While sources on Light are relatively plentiful – if somewhat obscure – little is known for certain about Martinha, who remains an enigmatic figure in the usual accounts. The trilogy of novels entitled Penang Chronicles’ (Dragon, Pearl and Emporium) recounts the story of Francis Light and his family anew, bringing a fresh look at this pivotal moment in the history of the Malay Peninsula, with the focus this time firmly on the peoples of the Straits.

About Rose Gan

British by birth, Rose Gan first arrived in Kuala Lumpur in 1978 and has been living and working between both UK and South East Asia ever since. Married to a Malaysian, and formerly a teacher of History and Latin in UK and Malaysia, Rose was also Vice Chair for Museums of the Indonesian Heritage Society, a guide and docent in Museum National Indonesia, Jakarta, and Muzium Negara and the Textile Museum in KL. In addition to lecturing to cultural associations, Rose has been actively involved with museum publications in Malaysia and Indonesia, both as a writer and editor.

Rose is the author of three books and has spoken about Francis Light, Martinha Rozells and the establishment of the British settlement of Penang to audiences at literary festivals and other book events in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Singapore, Suffolk (UK) and Adelaide (Australia).

This event is co-organised by Penang Institute, Pansing Distribution, Monsoon Books and Entrepot Publishing.



The international unveiling of Emporium, the newest addition to the captivating ‘Penang Chronicles’ historical fiction trilogy—comprising ‘Dragon,’ ‘Pearl,’ and ‘Emporium’—took place at the Penang Institute on December 8, 2023. Penned by Rose Gan, this trilogy draws inspiration from actual historical figures entwined with the life of Francis Light.

The event commenced with an engaging presentation by the author, where she provided an insightful overview of her novels. Rose delved into the characters’ origins, offering a vivid narrative that intertwined the people and events shaping her books. Notably, she shed light on Francis Light’s profound connection with Phuket and the intriguing life of Martinha Rozells, Francis Light’s wife.

Following the presentation, a lively moderated discussion ensued, accompanied by two extract readings. This segment transformed into an interactive session, with audience members actively engaging Rose and posing questions about her creative process. A focal point of discussion centered on the extent of artistic liberty employed by the author in her storytelling.

Rose Gan explained her approach, acknowledging the incorporation of legends and tales—though not historically validated—to craft a believable storyline. For instance, she portrayed Light firing coins from a cannon into a dense jungle to spur land-clearing. The conversation underscored the significance of unraveling the past to comprehend present issues instead of disregarding historical truths.

The evening culminated in a delightful book signing, capping off an enriching and immersive literary experience.