MORGAN, Michelle Racing the Moon Allen & Unwin, 2014 224 pp $15.99 pbk ISBN 9781743316351 SCIS 1641869
Although the cover illustration and the early chapters seem to indicate a primary school audience, the style, language and content would certainly be more suited to an older audience as topics such as domestic violence and sexual abuse may distress some readers. This is the life of a working class Catholic family in the time of the Great Depression. Mother in particular aspires to ‘better things’ for their eldest son Joe Riley. Dad is an illegal bookie who has no qualms about hopping into bed with another woman (Joe catches him) while his wife is in hospital with a new baby. Things are pretty rough in the Riley household and there are good scenes of family, and the rough and tumble of inner-city community life in the Depression years. The rendition of class and times is spot-on. But the Rileys have aspirations for their eldest son and enroll him at St Bartholomew’s College where the alleged principles are to ‘instil strong Catholic beliefs and principles by which all men can live, whatever their chosen path in life.’
Although the descriptions of life in a boarding school are vivid enough, the Catholic ethos is foreign to non-Catholic readers. When Joe is faced with the seedy sexual advances of one of the Brothers (at some length and in detail) one wonders whether this is simply in line with the present Zeitgeist or a supposed warning to possible victims.
Thankfully life gets better for Joe, when expelled from St Barts, he is sent to The Farm Reform School where the air is fresher and a good deal cleaner in every way and the Nuns, if strict, are human. It is from there that he attempts to race the moon by climbing to the top of the mountain before the moon touches it with its rays. Predictably Joe finds not only an inner strength away from the perversion and cloying atmosphere of St Barts. He also develops a saner and happier outlook on life in the environment of down-to-earth Nuns and away from sadistic and perverted Brothers. He has indeed glimpsed a full moon shining on the summit of the Mountain.
reviewed by Maurice Saxby