Red Moon

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Rachel Anderson
Hodder Children's Books
Apr 2006
�They call them by so many names. The refugees. The sans-papiers. The stateless. Whatever they call them, they cannot leave them without shelter. That would not be correct.�

All too often reportage by the popular press of those seeking asylum presents the public with an image laden only with leaden value judgements � asylum seekers are seen solely as vagrants. Little surprise then that such instantly reactionary accounts all-too-easily fuel the types of hatred and intolerance that the far-right breeds.

Through their ability to make us think and feel vicariously, stories offer us the opportunity to explore more fully backgrounds and circumstances to the events that surround us everyday� they offer us an ever-widening outlook for our world-view. Guardian Children�s Ficton award winner Rachel Anderson�s latest book, �Red Moon� is one such title. It is a richly textured novel with an unadorned prosaic style that belies its intense emotional impact.

Fathered by the Scottish Douglas and French Anne-Marie, Hamish is an unusual, thoughtful boy. Never having played football, suffering from asthma and always handing his homework in on time, it is perhaps small wonder he has no friends amongst his peers and thereby has a somewhat insular approach to life.

After Douglas is killed by blacks, Hamish and his mother move to France where she is able to work upon her dissertation. The move appears a successful one and their new life seems � initially � idyllic, although it quickly becomes apparent that this calm is the eye-of-the-narrative-storm�

Running in tandem alongside this is the story of Ahmed or � slightly less politely � Ali, as he later becomes known. Academically gifted, Ahmed�s ambition for his future is to become a respected teacher. This is shattered, however, once the militia take over the teaching compound. From a community that is able to offer no assurance of safety to its citizens, Ahmed begins a journey to seek refuge, shelter and protection. His voyage takes him by truck and by boat, eventually depositing him, washed ashore onto a French beach near the university where Hamish and his mother are staying.

Inevitably, the eventual union between the two boys is initially a difficult one, Hamish is frustrated by Ahmed�s reticence to communicate and later by the increasing demands that Ahmed begins to make of Hamish.

�Red Moon� is a novel that challenges consideration into perceptions of our fellow-beings, its clever shifts in perspective avoid it becoming moralising and yield from the reader unbridled compassion not only towards Ahmed, but also towards Hamish. Both boys have faced trauma and loss, but through the geography and social positioning of their respective births, one has been supported and nurtured, whilst the other left to fend for himself, to find for himself and fight for himself, for his own freedom. That the two interwoven narrative perspectives shift from being recorded in different typographical fonts towards the same by the end, provides oblique reference that this has been successful.

Through its multi-layered scrutiny of �language�, �residency� and �asylum�, concepts of �nationhood� and �race� are necessarily explored and assumptions challenged through the story. This in itself is enviable given the recent YouGov poll carried out prior to the local elections on 4th May which found 7% of people were ready to vote for the British Nationalist Party and 24% had either considered doing so before, or thinking about it now. Compassion can serve as both prevention and cure to intolerance; it is present here in abundance.

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on May 9, 2006 8:32 AM.

Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the World was the previous entry in this blog.

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