Charlotte Moore says that the first line of The Almost Moon is there “purely to grab attention,” and she doesn’t think much of what follows, either
By Janice Harayda
Alice Sebold’s first novel, The Lovely Bones, sold million of copies, but I read only a few pages before being put off partly by the tabloid-worthy premise: MURDERED CHILD TELLS STORY FROM HEAVEN! And I haven’t been able to get her second, The Almost Moon (Little, Brown, $24.95), from the library, because a lot of people here are reading it for one of those one-size-fits-all programs designed to get everybody in town to read the same book.
Until I can track down a copy, you might like to read the comments of a critic for a British weekly who raised points that I haven’t seen mentioned in the American reviews. Charlotte Moore wrote of The Almost Moon (“Deadened by Shock”) in the Oct. 31 issue of The Spectator:
“Its essential flaw is contained in its opening sentence: ‘When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.’ This is eye-catching … But like the rest of the novel it doesn’t withstand scrutiny.
“‘When all is said and done’ evokes a folksy storytelling style, but does it mean anything? Who is ‘saying and doing’, exactly? It’s just padding; the second half of the sentence could stand alone. Except it couldn’t because, unpadded, we might notice that the opening is contradicted by what actually happens. The narrator, Helen Knightly, takes ages to decide what to do with her demented, incontinent mother; when at last she smothers her with towels, it’s not easy at all. It’s a struggle, as you’d expect. And the remaining 277 pages go into minute detail about just how difficult it is to know what to do with yourself while you’re waiting for the cops to discover that you have murdered your mother. Nothing easy about it.
“The justification of that opening sentence, then, is purely to grab attention. This speciousness infects the prose throughout. Nasty revelations occur about once every ten pages, like the sex scenes in the Harold Robbins novels we used to pass round at boarding school.”
I don’t know if I’ll agree with these comments. But I love the force and clarity of Moore’s writing in this review — especially in contrast to how so many American critics have danced around the flaws they saw in the novel. Awfully persuasive in just a few paragraphs, isn’t it?
You can read the rest of the review at www.spectator.co.uk.
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.