Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Almost Moon - Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold is the author of the excellent ( and hugely successful) Lovely Bones who, I discovered in the acknowledgements, is married to author Glen David Gold who wrote Carter Beats the Devil which is a book I really enjoyed a few years ago.

I had no idea what The Almost Moon was about before picking it up to read however with the first line of the book being "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily" I realised that this was not going to be an easy read.

The Almost Moon is the story of Helen and her complex, painful relationship with her mother, ex-lingerie model Clair Knightly, and with her also deceased father. We see the steps that led her to take her mother's life and follow her over the next twenty-four hours as she comes to terms with the consequences of her actions and understand the events in her life that led her to take this action.

Helen's murder of her mother in the first few pages puts the reader into a deliberately awkward relationship with the main character which perhaps reflects the difficult relationships Helen herself has experienced during her lifetime. Although I can imagine how easy it would be to take the life of someone you loved (and Helen does love her mother) and justify it to yourself as being in their own interests as their quality of life is so awful there is no attempt to justify the killing on these grounds and I respect Sebold's decision to take that line. Using flashbacks, she guides the reader to an understanding of the various pressures that Helen was put under throughout her life and the damage that her mother's mental illness has caused to her other family relationships.

This is a challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable, book to read that handles the subject in a thought provoking way. Alice Sebold did an excellent job of challenging standard ethical views on matricide and it was impossible not to empathise with Helen's plight as you understand how difficult her life has been.

There's an interview with Alice Sebold on the publisher's site and a thought provoking article on the book from vulpes libris.


Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed it P! I started reading it with an almighty handover & realised in the first few lines, that perhaps I should put it down & start again when i had all my mental ability to hand. Glad i did.

Peta said...

Definitely not a book to read when seeking comfort with a hangover!