Playing with the Moon is Eliza Graham’s first novel and it’s very good.
It begins when Minna and Tom, who are staying at a cottage in an isolated village on the Dorset coast east of Lulworth, discover a human skeleton on the beach and dog tags inscribed LEWIS J CAMPBELL and a number. American military officials confirmed his identity as Private Lew Campbell, believed to have died in 1944 during training exercises for the Normandy landings.
Minna and Tom are trying to come to terms with the death of their baby. Tom is struggling to carry on with his business, which is in financial difficulty, and Minna, who is recovering from a breakdown, is unable to talk to him about her grief. She becomes absorbed in finding out what had lead to Campbell’s death, when she meets Felix an elderly woman who had lived in the village during the war. A fascinating story slowly emerges. Moving from 1943 to the present, the story of Felix and the American GI is interwoven with the story of Minna and Tom and the events that lead to the death of their son. Each story is mysterious and tragic. Both Minna and Felix are overcome by their grief and as they tentatively get to know each other they pour out their stories and draw comfort from each other.
The book deals with memory, the power of memory, with loss, grief and bereavement. It’s also about war, the legacy of war, and of how to make sense of our lives. I found it a compelling book to read. Although it deals with tragic events it does so gently and with compassion.
It seems to me that Playing With the Moon captures what life was like during the 1940s. It was quite by coincidence that I read this book just before Remembrance Sunday and not long after I’d read One Fine Day. There is a recurring theme here and it has set me off on a trail to find out more about the Second World War.