Book Review | Moonstone by Sjon

28472058FULL TITLE: Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

Mani Steinn is a film fanatic, illiterate, and a dreamer. He lives in a rural town in Iceland, where the population is only 15000. In October 1918, whilst the Great War is still raging in a fairly distant land, the Katla volcano erupts. Less than a month later, the Spanish flu arrives, killing hundreds. Two thirds of Mani’s town are in the sickbeds. Mani’s world is about to change – forever. 

This book started out in way that made me go, “Okay… wow…” And then I was basically doing that throughout the whole book, along with a few “OOH!”s and “Blimey”s.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s easy to see how it won a prize and has been hailed as a great novel, especially in Iceland. Sjon is a beautiful writer – this book isn’t just a book, it is a work of art.

It’s very short – I read it in just one sitting on my bed, and barely got uncomfortable, even though I often went back and reread passages over. This was for two reasons: firstly, sometimes there were things I didn’t understand. Secondly, especially once I understood them, I was so awestruck at how well these things were written that I had to go back and reread them.

Honestly, Sjon is an incredible writer, and not just for his way of writing as I’ve mentioned above. I have never seen “Show, don’t tell” used so well in a novel before, and even the way fevers were written were so exquisitely done.

Mani was the main character of this novel, a film-fanatic and an outsider to his world. I loved learning more and more about him as the novel went on. I did think that there was a little but of queer-baiting going on – there seemed to be a woman (“The only woman”, of course) who this gay character was interested in. Other reviews seemed to think the same, many commenting on this woman (heteronormativity anyone? *sigh*) but I think that Mani was simply interested in this woman because she was compelling. I myself do not want a girlfriend, but sometimes I just want to be around girls because I find certain people so interesting and captivating I do not want to be apart from them. So, I think that that is what is happening to Mani here – there was never any mention of him having sexual fantasies for this woman, either. Sorry, this paragraph turned out far longer than expected.

And yes, you did read ‘sexual fantasies’ right. There is a lot of graphic sex in this book (so, not suitable for younger readers), and a fair bit of violence. In 1918, homosexuality was still illegal, so the sex scenes take place in shady hotels and along ridges. Nevertheless, they were still written well and I felt really added something to the actual plot of the novel too. Often you can have PWP in a book, and whilst that isn’t always a bad thing, in a book this short it’s needed to add to the novel itself, and it was. (Like I’ve said, Sjon is a brilliant writer.)

Reading this novel wasn’t just reading, it was an experience, one I would always like to repeat. Moonstone is definitely going on my favourite’s list, and I would definitely recommend it. I’ll admit that it’s not for everyone, but I do like ‘weird literature’ so it has been perfect for me.

Slight spoilers: I also really loved the kind of faction ending. I thought it was a beautiful homage to Sjon’s deceased uncle, and really appreciated knowing a little backstory to the novel.

My copy of Moonstone was sent to me by Sceptre/Headline (thank you!) via bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review upon it’s paperback publishing. All opinions are my own.

TITLE: Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
GENRE: Adult/historical fiction
PUBLISHER//YEAR OF PUBLICATION: Sceptre // 2017 (PAPERBACK) 2016 – hardback
ISBN: 9781473613157
PERSONAL SOURCE: Sent by publisher

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