February 10th, 2011


Another D-mn’d Thick Book

“Another d-mn’d thick, square book. Always scribble, scribble, scribble, Eh, Mr Gibbon Ms Clayton?” Victoria Clayton must really love to write; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she does actually scribble her books out in longhand. Moonshine weighs in at 800gm and 663 pages. I loved Clouds Among the Stars so much that I wouldn’t have minded it being twice as long but I felt this volume had three books in it. We start the book with Bobbie running away to Ireland to escape the media storm which has accompanied her affair with a married Tory MP. An agreeable man looks after her on the unpleasant ferry crossing, then offers to drive her to the castle where she’s accepted a job as housekeeper. During the journey, she relates her back story. I found this narrative form a problem. So there’s one story: the love affair she enjoyed but which has ended so badly.

Then comes story number two, where she falls in love with the crumbling (think Troubles), rundown old house and most of its eccentric inhabitants. Bobbie had previously worked for an auction house, has an eye for beautiful things and is energetic and can do compared with her Irish employers. In no time at all she’s putting the house and gardens to rights. To my mind the whole balance of the book is upset by the introduction of a third thread, about the Troubles (it’s 1979). I could hardly read this without rage and I feel firstly that it has no place in a social comedy (although very relevant to the characters) and secondly that it takes a more serious writer than Victoria Clayton to manage successfully.

Luckily, there was enough detail about houses, furniture and gardening to keep my interest to the end and there’s even a walk-on part for Harriet Byng from Clouds Among the Stars.