‘When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily’
I’m not really sure where to begin with this one…now, I love Alice Seabold and I love her soft, poetic writing style overlaying tragic and disturbing narratives, but I just didn’t get on with this book…I have a bit of a problem in that, I rarely read the back covers of books before I get going…mainly because I’m ploughing through 3 bags full of books from work experience but that’s not to say that I’m reading for consumption…I’m really just hand-picking books at random!
Anyway, as I mentioned before…I love Seabold’s writing style but I have to say, I just didn’t like the narrative. Although there were some themes that I could relate to, there were more that I couldn’t.
From the outset it becomes clear that Helen has a strained relationship (at best…) with her mother and that she has always felt like nothing she does is good enough to win her mother’s love. On visiting her mother one day, Helen suffocates her with a towel. If that sounds blunt when I’m saying it, you should hear it when Helen confesses to ex-husband Jake before dragging him into it all…(sorry, claws away Laura!)
So, she kills her mother and then becomes slightly obsessed with cleaning her body and preparing it for the next stages etc. which is a little startling in itself as Helen is so blasé about the whole thing! At one stage when the neighbour phoned, I actually thought that Helen was going to become a ventriloquist and pick up her mother’s arm and wave!
The good things about this novel are the style and the fact that Helen didn’t seem any different from anyone else…like when you see people on the news talking about their neighbours who turned out to be criminal masterminds but they ‘just seemed ordinary’. That is actually why this novel is both good and bad because it kind of, normalises the situation? By that I don’t mean that murdering your own mother is normal…I just mean that unlike novels where the murderer is psychotic, driven and obsessed, The Almost Moon is based around the idea that someone has just snapped. They’ve had enough of being treated badly, not feeling loved, not feeling good enough and then they just snap. This is exactly what has happened to Helen, although she does mention having homicidal feelings towards her mother in the past…this hasn’t been planned but she just feels ‘enough is enough’.
It is after the actual event that I began to lose interest…Helen shows absolutely NO remorse, she even contemplates cutting her mother up (to fulfil a supposed childhood fantasy!?) and she cuts off her mother’s prized possession, her braid. This is where it became less “understandable” – I use the term very loosely – and actually seems very childish. It seems that Helen hasn’t taken the moral high ground like adults should do, especially when their parents are getting very ill and even forgetting themselves but perhaps it could be argued that those kinds of values hadn’t been instilled in her because she didn’t have a very happy childhood…oh I don’t know! It makes my brain hurt! I just found that I had no sympathy, no empathy, no anything for Helen at all…and although she dabbled with the idea at the end of feeling remorseful for her actions, it was too late!
I think for me, because I didn’t get hooked from the start, I just found it difficult to understand and difficult to comprehend…I can always tell whether I’m engrossed by whether I miss my stop on the tube or whether I let my tea go cold etc. but I even got off the tube with two pages left to read! Supposedly the height of suspense/revelation etc. and I just closed the book!
Anyway, enough of the moaning…I just didn’t get on with it. I found it a really challenging, uncomfortable read and although sometimes I do like books to push me to various emotions, it just put me on edge. I’m sure many other people have read it and loved it but I’m afraid on this occasion, I’m one of the others…