Moonlight Sonata by Eileen Merriman – 2019

Moonlight sonataMoonlight sonata starts like a typical slice of New Zealand life novel, with a family meeting up for the Christmas/New Year break in a seaside home, with the usual tensions and jealousies. But this book turns into a much more complex, and emotionally difficult story, a story of ongoing parental bullying and forbidden love.

The story is told from the point of view of some of the protagonists: Molly, frustrated with her work-obsessed husband, Richard, worried about her teenage son, Noah, and glad to be back with her twin brother, Joe.  Molly is right to be worried about Noah, their family has recently moved to Melbourne and Noah hates it there, is sick of hearing his parents fighting, and is enjoying the company of his many cousins, especially 15-year-old Lola.  Lola is an aspiring cricketer, is annoyed with her over-protective mother, Kiri, and struggling with her recently diagnosed diabetes.  Joe, who arrives back from the Middle East, is an exotic and exciting uncle, a critical brother-in-law and a beloved twin brother.

These are the characters from whose point of view we read the story, but there are lots more siblings, cousins, parents and children holidaying and struggling with each other.  Some of the characters are more rounded than others, but all are believable.  The story jumps back and forth from the present through incidents in Molly’s life, and the times and places are evoked with clothing (legwarmers!), trends (dying to see Footloose) and behaviours (changes in the drugs of choice), and you never feel lost.  And the New Zealand summer by the sea is captured perfectly: the sand between toes and in bedsheets, the sunburnt noses, the voracious appetites, the wet hair …

To tell the story would be to reveal the secrets of the family, the reader guesses pretty early on what they are, but the tension is still there.  What intrigues the reader are the anecdotes of shared history that give context to what has transpired, and to the decisions that have been made. The book highlights that experiences of childhood and youth influence adult outlook and behaviour.  The facts and consequences are there for the reader to ponder.  The story gets very tense, and a summer storm builds as does the danger to the characters.

Moonlight sonata is a read that is on the one hand very familiar and comfortable, and on the other completely original and tragic.  Merriman is well known for her YA writing, and Moonlight Sonata is a smooth transition into adult fiction – read it yourself and see what you think …

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1 Response to Moonlight Sonata by Eileen Merriman – 2019

  1. Pingback: 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlist | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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