Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Book Review: Playing with the Moon by Eliza Graham

Genre: Fiction
Published by: Macmillan New Writing (2007)
Pages: 276

Shattered by a recent bereavement, Minna and husband Tom retreat to an isolated village on the Dorset coast, hoping to find the solitude that will allow them to mourn and rebuild their foundering marriage. Walking on the beach one day, they unearth a human skeleton. It is a discovery which will plunge Minna into a mystery which will consume her for months.
The remains are soon identified as those of Private Lew Campbell, a black American GI who, it seems, drowned during a wartime exercise in the area 50 years before. Growing increasingly preoccupied with the dead soldier’s fate, Minna befriends a melancholy elderly woman, Felix, who lived in the village during the war. As Minna coaxes Felix’s story from her, it becomes clear that the old woman knows more about the dead GI than she initially let on.

First Line: " Our second wedding anniversary. I'm about to tell Tom our marriage is over when he spots something in the sand."

The story is narrated by Minna, and I really liked her character. She was suffering so much and didn't know how to make things better as she had withdrawn into herself a great deal. I felt that this is where her friendship with Felix helps her so much to come to terms with her loss, as she realises that she's not the only one to lose someone she loved. In a way, Minna becomes quite obsessed with Felix's story and finding out exactly what happened to Lew.
Their friendship is a healing process for both of them.

This is an excerpt from early in the story when Felix comes back to the village, after the discovery of Lew's body in 2006, and wanders round the utility room in her old home that she was evacuated from in 1943 when she was 14.

Her fingers touch paper jammed up against the wall in the far corner. She pulls out a small yellowed sheet. She blows on it and the dust disperses to expose a cormorant, poised to dive, head slightly tilted, eyes intent on its prey. Seeing the bird is like receiving an electric shock; she remembers Lew drawing it as though it was yesterday.
Felix slides the drawing back onto the shelf. It belongs in Rosebank House, with the girl she once was. Away from the valley, it would disintegrate. After all, she did.

The writing throughout the book was pacey, it never drags, it was never boring. Eliza Graham kept me interested and I really wanted to know more of what happened in Felix's life in the village in 1943 and after she left. I wanted her to find happiness.
I loved the way the story easily went back and forth in time.

This is another excerpt with Felix, Lew and Felix's friend David talking on the beach

'Just look at that moon' Lew pointed up through the cave entrance at the big yellow circle. 'You could just reach out and squeeze it like a lemon.' He began to sing in a low voice. 'Do you want the moon to play with, the stars to run away with?'

This is such an engaging and simple story, delighfully told, of guilt and loss and how it affects lives. It will probably never win any awards but I do hope it will win plenty of readers. This is Eliza Graham's debut novel.

Why Did I Pick This Book: I was instantly attracted to the book title and I loved the picture on the cover. I just had a good feeling from those that I would enjoy the book and I'm pleased that my instincts were right.

Any Negatives?: There were a couple of coincidences near the end of the story that I did find hard to believe, but I don't want to spoil any of the story for anyone so I won't say what they were!

Would I Recommend It?: Yes, definitely.

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