A Bright Moon for Fools: A Novel

Image of A Bright Moon for Fools: A Novel
Release Date: 
September 1, 2015
Skyhorse Publishing
Reviewed by: 

Harry Christmas is no longer an alcoholic. He’s pickled—so long in the drink, particularly Scotch, which he refers to as “the rot,” that there’s no memory of sobriety anymore. Harry flees London with a stolen heart and stolen cash (the one figuratively and the other literally) and a book of poetry for Caracas, Venezuela.

Harry is trying to recapture the happy moments of his life with his deceased wife Emily, who was Venezuelan, by visiting the Venezuelan beach they once dreamed of spending time on and reading poetry together while passing time.  

Robbed in Caracas (such verisimilitude!), Harry bumbles along into one comedic and painful situation after another—from smart-ass hotel managers to mistakenly smoking crack. Christmas is a strange Mr. Bean type of character in his comedic timing, full of cynicism and anger, as well as bruised innocence. And yet, contradictorily, Harry is detestable: He is rude, crude, socially unacceptable—and not at all apologetic.

As Harry tries to crawl out of his abyss, he pokes his head up a little too soon to realize he’s been followed by William Slade, the stepson of a woman Harry jilted and stole his ill-gotten cash from. William Slade has a disturbing collection of and love for knives, and he has no issue with raping women. William closes in on Harry’s trail. Harry now calls himself Harry Strong.

Harry finds a lonely Englishwoman named Judith and her daughter Bridget. Harry attempts to make a new life, but in the process he can’t help but continue to lie. Harry cons Judith and her daughter, disappearing before Judith’s birthday dinner, when William comes calling with the truth. Disbelieving, Bridget is furious with William’s intrusion into her family’s house and life, threatening to call the police, and in retaliation for her anger, William rapes Bridget. [Note: The rape is clearly described, and the level of detail could be a trigger.]

Bridget is not the only woman raped by William Slade in this book. Despite the obvious sadism of William, the question is raised as to whether or not the author actually needed to go into descriptive detail about the rape, or indeed, if the character was required to rape anyone at all to make him believably deranged.

Any reader who requires trigger warnings, beware. The black humor on display is undercut with the disturbingly violent scenes as William pursues Harry through Venezuela, essentially ruining what could have been a dark Mr. Bean skit and turning it into Justine with jokes. The tiniest sliver of redemption, perhaps for the reader as well as the book and Harry, is when he leaves the country and wonders how he can possibly live, blaming himself for the rapes, though it isn’t his fault William did what he did. But it is Harry’s fault that William barged into Bridget and her mother’s lives. Unfortunately, there is no real resolution.

Where critics are calling this a fun read, there are funny moments, but the book is dark rather than dark comedy, and unless readers have a stomach for this sort of sexual violence, then readers ought to find something else to satisfy their penchant for dark humor.