Thursday, October 18, 2007

SHADOW OF THE MOON by M. M. Kaye

The Book: M. M. Kaye, SHADOW OF THE MOON. St. Martin's, 1979 (U.S. hardcover reprint). Book is missing dust jacket, otherwise in good condition; cover shows some sun-fading and rubbing.
First read: 1980
Owned since: 1984 (approximately)

Lest anyone get the idea I'm some kind of intellectual, I want to post regularly about the popular fiction on my shelves. A novel's first mission is to entertain; if it does that, then we can talk about whether it enlightens or instructs or contributes to the progress of humanity. If it doesn't entertain first, how will it have the opportunity to instruct?

M.M. Kaye's THE FAR PAVILIONS was a runaway bestseller, and in its wake, St. Martin's published two of her earlier novels that had never seen print in the United States -- both of which I liked better than THE FAR PAVILIONS, which I found tedious.

While THE FAR PAVILIONS is a novel of the second Anglo-Afghan War, SHADOW OF THE MOON's climax is the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Its protagonist is Winter de Ballesteros, an Anglo-Spanish orphan born in India and reared in England, who returns to India to marry the dissolute Commissioner of Lunjore. Her escort on that trip is the dashing British Army Captain Alex Randall, who goes on to protect her from enemies foreign and domestic.

I was unaware of the Sepoy Mutiny before I read this book; we didn't cover it in ninth-grade World Cultures. It also introduced me to my favorite melody, "Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms." The song plays a crucial role in an early love scene, and I had never heard it; I got someone to pick it out for me on a piano. I just said yesterday that I love waltzes, and this is still the most beautiful one I know.
The heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look which she turned when he rose.

This book is probably unforgivably colonial and melodramatic, but I fell in love with it when I was 13, and I will always read it with 13-year-old eyes. For me, those lyrics apply to books as much as to people; once I decide I love something, I never really get over it. Why would I want to?

9 comments:

Madley said...

Just FYI, had to hear the melody -- here's sheet music and .mp3... didn't know I already knew it!

Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms

Now I want to read this book (wtih 13-year-old eyes too!) -- I've never heard of a first name Winter before...

AnswerGirl said...

Thanks, Madley!

I think "Winter" is a beautiful first name -- my friends Hugh and Anahita gave it to their little girl, but they spell it "Wynter."

The book is out of print (gasp!), but you should be able to track down a copy at www.abebooks.com.

Romancereader said...

I love this book one of my absolute favourites (although when it comes to M.M. Kaye I will pick Trade Winds every time!).
The only thing I was never quite sure about was at the end, when Alex had been away for ages and she wasn't sure if he was alive, and she was getting really ill. Then she sees him and he's surrounded by light. I wasn't sure whether he came back or they were both dead. what was your interpretation of it?

AnswerGirl said...

It never occurred to me that she might be dying! I'm sure he came back, safe and alive -- but now I need to look at it again.

The Rush Blog said...

This book is probably unforgivably colonial and melodramatic, but I fell in love with it when I was 13, and I will always read it with 13-year-old eyes.


The novel is pro-colonial . . . and it isn't. On one hand, Kaye does try to justify British presence in India. On the other hand, she acknowledges that the British did mistreat the Indian people that it ruled, and Britain would have to leave India one day. Very curious.

The Rush Blog said...

The only thing I was never quite sure about was at the end, when Alex had been away for ages and she wasn't sure if he was alive, and she was getting really ill. Then she sees him and he's surrounded by light. I wasn't sure whether he came back or they were both dead. what was your interpretation of it?


I believe that Winter had given birth to their son not long before Alex's return at the end of the novel.

romancereader said...

"I believe that Winter had given birth to their son not long before Alex's return at the end of the novel."

That she had just given birth to their son is neither a sign that she survived or otherwise it is? Although given her family history perhaps it makes it even more liekly that she died?

capricorn said...

I know this is a very old post but I have to correct you guys here. Winter DOES NOT die in the end. She waits for Alex whom she is sure is alive. she even says at one point that if he was dead she would feel it in her heart. . And yes she does give birth to Alex's son but that happens some time before the ending
And YES Alex DOES come back in the end. It's M.M.Kays's abrupt ending that confuses people.
By the way, I also read the novel when I was 13 years old and have been in love with it ever since. :-)

AnswerGirl said...

Yeah, I had never thought that Winter died at the end, and looking at it again just affirmed my original take on the book.