Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjon

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

The October evening is windless and cool.

– Opening sentence

I didn’t really have any expectations for Moonstone. I’d heard good things about it, and because it was set in Reykjavik, Iceland, where I was heading for a long weekend – I picked up a copy from BookBridgr.

I certainly didn’t expect to be confronted with a graphic sex act on page one. It kind of made me want to hide what I was reading, in case people knew. And because I knew nothing about Moonstone beforehand, I didn’t know if it was some sort of erotica novella.

Back in the hostel, in the privacy of my room, I continued reading. And I’m glad I did, because what I read wasn’t erotica, but one of the most deeply moving stories I have ever read.

Based on true events that happened after the war in 1918, Mani Steinn is a boy with a secret growing up in isolated Reykjavik. When the Spanish Flu arrives, there is some hesitation and confusion as to what will happen.

Once people start dying, that confusion ends.

Despite being a short book, Moonstone wasn’t the easiest to read. Steinn’s blurring of reality and dreams (and nightmares) are echoed in the writing, which sometimes made me very confused as a reader. I would re-read certain sections to make sure I had read them right, and sometimes find myself just going with it without truly understanding.

Now that I have completed Moonstone, however, things are clearer. And I think if I were to revisit this book I would experience a much smoother read.

The themes discussed in Moonstone are deep and, at times, harrowing. You’ll be done with the book in a day, but the story will stick with you for weeks afterwards. I often think these are the best books, because they really get into your head.

Moonstone is Sjon’s eighth novel and the fourth to be translated into English. He has also published volumes of poetry and written lyrics for Björk. For those who are interested, read this interview with Sjon about his inspiration’s behind Moonstone.

But I am not a man, I’m a child…

– Final sentence

4 Stars (4 / 5)


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