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The Glimpses Of The Moon Paperback – October 3, 1996
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From Library Journal
Will it be Lake Como? Or Venice? Nick and Susy Lansing, penniless drifters in the international set of 1922, must decide which of the houses of their wealthy friends they should borrow for their honeymoon. Afterward they anticipate a glamorous future of dignified sponging until each can marry an eligible millionaire. However, true love scuttles their well-laid plans. It is difficult for this reviewer to imagine how such a respected author as Wharton (Ethan Frome, Audio Reviews, LJ 5/1/93) could have created so many insipid characters, all draped in furs and jewels and speaking lines that must have seemed dated even back then. Although she was not "writing down" to the readers of the Pictorial Review, wherein The Glimpses of the Moon was serialized, Wharton may have been writing too fast to avoid lapses in style and taste that are all too obvious. Kate Harper does her best in contributing a fine narration, but it isn't enough to resuscitate such a sentimental period piece. Only the largest of literary collections need consider.?Jo Car, Sarasota, Fla.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
Long out of print, Wharton's novel opens with a sentence that seems to have been written for the opening voice-over of a movie: ``It rose for them--their honey-moon--over the waters of a lake so famed as the scene of romantic raptures that they were rather proud of not having been afraid to choose it as the setting of their own.'' But Nick and Susy Lansing, each suffering from a genteel lack of money, have married out of convenience rather than romantic rapture. Intending to live off the generosity of wealthy acquaintances, they have also agreed that each shall be free to pursue a more socially desirable mate. What they didn't anticipate is that they would fall genuinely in love with each other. As Wharton tells their story, the sharp irony of both her prose and her characters bleeds into pools of true feeling. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
We don't see Fen again until he reappears in GLIMPSES OF THE MOON in 1977. Why the 24 year lapse? As far as I know, it was never explained. This book is different from the earlier ones in that the story is well advanced before Fen appears and (even then) he remains somewhat on the periphery.
At the time of publication, the author had been happily settled in rural Devonshire for many years. He was vocal in his hatred of London (and all cities) and as equally vocal in his opposition to the "development" (which he called exploitation) of rural England. He had also finally taken a wife and this book is dedicated to her. Since he died only one year after its publication (of his decades-long alcoholism) I wonder if this book wasn't at least partially an attempt to provide financially for his wife
Crispin even includes himself in the character of a resident film composer who's eager to tell anyone who'll listen about the trials and tribulations of that particular occupation. There are plenty of the kind off-beat characters for which Crispin was known. There's an acerbic rector, a retired major who's obsessed with television jingles, two dotty elderly twin sisters, a pub owner who's a happy invalid, and many others.
The author also takes the opportunity to expound on his favorite topics - the mindless exploitation of rural areas, the cruelties of factory farming, fox hunting (and the anti-hunting movement) and the modern dependence on television. In some ways it's dated. The parts about young people and their music and dress sound more like the early 1960's than the late 1970's. I suppose Crispin was playing catch-up after such a long hiatus.
In the end, the mystery itself is far less important than the witty (frequently farcical) goings-on of the strange cast of characters. I don't thing it's Crispin's best and I don't think it would be a good place to start in the series, but it and the book of short stories published after Crispin's death are very welcome "bonuses" for those of us who know and love this unique writer and his work. It also contains one of the most likable and most NORMAL families that Crispin created - the capable, kindly farmer Clarence Tully and his brood of stalwart sons. There'll always be an England!
It can be argued that Ellis the tortoise is a metaphor for the novel in its slow pacing and an apparent circularity that never quite reaches a dead-end but finally attains closure. Similarly, Ellis finds freedom on the open road where the protestor's van blocks the progress of a motorcycle club (among others) and the chemist Dodd (leader of the protestors against the hunt) trips over a tortoise that much later Fen vaguely remembers as having seen somewhere. Extending the metaphor, The Glimpses of the Moon has a "spiral" structure in which characters and events are revisited over again so as to stretch out the plot unhurriedly. Even the faster chase scenes have an easy aspect because they are long-drawn out and introduce one by one elements that help tie the plot together (the police chase after Luckraft, the discomfiture of the man from Sweb, the Pisser, Fen and the Major as interested observers from the branches of a tree, even Ellis the tortoise).
I suspect Crispin enjoyed writing this novel, which reads as a relaxed ramble among an assortment of eccentric characters in the village of Glazebridge. The tranquillity and eccentricity does not end with the occurrence of mysterious deaths but continues as a sort of mise en scène to the investigations of the crime. The novel might just as easily have been written as a quirky comedy of manners with no murders and detection, although the element of conflict no doubt would be introduced in another way. The novel's improbabilities tend to flow over the reader in that well-known suspension of disbelief. It merits a re-reading and is overdue for re-publication. Appropriately, in this new edition by Felony & Mayhem the cover photograph from the digital artist Drew Medina is that of a tortoise.
The Glimpses of the Moon opens in the local pub with a discussion of the murder of a farmer named Routh by one of his employees, an Australian named Hagberd. The group includes the Major, Padmore a writer, and Professor Gervase Fen. The event is gruesome enough with the dismemberment of the body. Routh fits the stereotype in these English garden village mysteries that murder victims are generally not likeable and do not overly excite the reader's sympathy. Hagberd is a fond stereotype of the coarse colonial with a shady past, Australians being well known to become bushrangers at the drop of a cork-brimmed hat.
The most characteristic element in The Glimpses of the Moon, as in other novels by Crispin, is his satirical treatment of social institutions and life's chances that are often founded upon self-reflection. One of the funniest of these is the depiction of the music composer Broderick Thouless, drawn from Montgomery's own experiences. Self-parody permeates the novel. Trade secrets are revealed. Literary criticism is an obvious target. So too is detective fiction. Crispin slips in wry references to his own and to others' work.
Serious crime solving and horrific events in The Glimpses of the Moon would not be out of place in a novel by John Dickson Carr, to whom Crispin pays tribute. Carr mixes horror and the supernatural with humour but Crispin has a lighter touch that is never far removed from farce. At first this appears not the case. In "Glimpses" Routh's corpse is dismembered, its wrapped head passed from person to person in a series of both intentional and accidental swapping to be replaced at times by that of a pig on some occasions or the bust of a statue. But the gruesomeness of dismemberment quickly shifts to very like that of bedroom farce where different characters come and go in hiding from one another, except in this case it is the heads of unfortunate victims.
Most of our attention is taken up with the quirky situations. The chase scene near the end, obligatory with Crispin, includes the man from Sweb carrying a mysterious box that some pursuers think might contain the missing head. Slapstick ensues, over-indulged some might think in the climactic chapter as though Crispin is trying to outdo himself. The chase is attenuated, in which motor cars, horses, cows and an assortment of villagers participate in gridlock within a narrow road. Bruce Montgomery was fond of mayhem all his life, see the orchestral melt-down in the 1961 film Raising the Wind made sixteen years earlier, for which Montgomery wrote the score and in which he played a cameo part. This mêlée takes place in the penultimate chapter.
In the succeeding and final chapter the dénouement is in traditional fashion over dinner in the kitchen of Fen's rented cottage. The serious tenor of the summing-up is interrupted throughout by ridiculous but sometimes witty dialogue. The last words of The Glimpses of the Moon return to humour through both literary parody and a double pun in Fen's proposed novel that might very well remain unfinished unless he can get down to its subject matter, the detail in the tale.
© Bruce Shaw
Bruce is writing a modest book on Humour in Crime Fiction of the Golden Age.