May 30, 2010

Reading By Moonlight - Brenda Walker

Reading By Moonlight would have to be one of the most beautiful, lyrical and mesmerising books I have read in a long time. I have failed to get very much done today as I have been unable to tear myself about from this book.

Australian author and Professor of English, Brenda Walker has written Reading By Moonlight as a narrative of her journey through her diagnosis, treatment and recovery of breast cancer. What makes this slightly different from some other books of a similar focus is the way that Walker weaves her literary background and love of books and writing into her story - in a way, given that this is her background it would have been virtually impossible to exclude it.

Walker divides the book into five sections; surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction and survival - whilst each section is part of a single narrative they also have their own individual feel and sense - which Walker describes through her own emotions and remembrances of the times but also on her recollection of the books she chooses to read through each period.

Some of the books and authors that Walker relies on to support her through this journey and ones that she shares with us in Reading By Moonlight include, The Hours - Michael Cunningham, Anna Karenina - Tolstoy, The Tale of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu, Voss - Patrick White, Edgar Allan Poe and her own novel in progress at the time - The Wing of Night. Each book and author discussed is done so in just enough detail so that the connection between that being discussed and Walker's own current situation is clear - although you never feel you are being preached at.

The book is sad and yet hopeful at the same time - and now only because Walker is able to end her book with a chapter called Survival.

There are so many wonderful, true and inspiring quotes I could leave you with from this already favourite book of mine but I will choose this one;

"To be honest I would rather tell you about books. A good book laces invisible fingers into the shape of a winter armchair or a hammock in the sun. I'm not talking about comfort, necessarily, but support. A good writer might take you to strange and difficult places, but you're in the hands of someone you trust".

So true, and I now add Brenda Walker high on the list of authors I trust.


Rebecca Chapman said...

I absolutely want to read this book. I saw it at the Sydney Writers Festival and nearly purchased it, but I just couldn't afford it. It seems amazing. What I love about it is that it seems quite similar to Helen Garner's The Spare Room, except that it is autobiographical obviously. And at the same time it has that element of literature, and the power of language in people's lives. Definitely something that I will be reading as soon as I can. I will add this to my wishlist with a link to your review.

Jennifer Byrne is reviewing this book on June's First Tuesday Book Club if you get a chance to watch it.

Molly said...

I have not heard of this book before, but your review is wonderful and I now know that I simply must read it! Thank you for the introduction.

Anonymous said...

Like yourself Karen, I loved this. I thought Brenda Walker wrote beautifully about her illness, her family and her reading and very skillfully wove it all together.

I haven't read any of Walker's novels but plan to now, starting with The Wing of the Night. I hope they're as good!

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Karen said...

Hi Becky - I would have loved to be able to hear Brenda Walker speak at the Writers' Festival but unfortunately I couldn't end up making it to her session. It is a lovely book - inside and out so I hope you manage to track down a copy very soon. I will also have to try and catch the review on the First Tuesday Bookclub - which is probably tonight isn't it??

Hi Molly - it is a wonderful book - I hope you can find a copy.

Hi adevotedreader - I have just picked up a copy of The Wing of Night from my library today!

Vintage Reading said...

This sounds wonderful and I like the extract you quoted. I have a friend who is in remission from this terrible illness and I will recommend it.

B said...

This book sounds great. I'm going to track it down and get it in my TBR pile. Thanks for the recommendation.

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