Sometimes, not often, I open up a new book and know immediately that I am going to love it. When I unwrapped this big fat book, my first impression was that it was designed for easy reading, with a retro-familiarity in its structure. As a senior citizen I’ve now seven decades of interpretation behind me and I thought from the first fifteen pages where this was taking me. P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster and Jeeves perhaps? Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited maybe? Richard Harding Davis’s The Bar Sinister? No, it wasn’t any of these.
Yet, reading Eye of the Moon was like slipping into a favourite pair of well-worn slippers and travelling off and away the tasty tale. The story line travelled along at a comfortable trot, characters make their introductions and the chapters were just the perfect length to hold my interest, and before I knew it, a couple of hundred pages had quickly passed by. Was this the Great Gatsby meets Alistair Crowley? Wrong again. Eye of the Moon is a classic gothic tale flawlessly composed with the author’s persona that is evident on every page.
Firstly we have a majestic old-money, hundred-acre property named ‘Rhinebeck’ situated up the Hudson River in Duchess County. Filling its rooms for an anniversary dinner is a selection of vibrant personalities as would be found within an Agatha Christie novel. Add to that a strong dash of the supernatural and perhaps a demon conjured up via an incantation assisted by narcotics and then you start to get the picture. But there’s more, like cupboards full of family skeletons, tyrannical aunts and mysterious statues, exotic dinner parties with copious amounts of alcohol, a strong-minded bull terrier, the beautiful attorney, manipulative servants, hate and revenge, and perhaps a past murder?
The two central characters, Percy and Johnny, drive the plot forward and it is through Percy’s eyes the tempo is conducted. Another important character named Alice, who once devilled with the occult, expired well before this story commenced, however she somehow holds court throughout the novel and stays there as a major contributor right up until the conclusion. Ivan Obolensky deals with the supernatural in a plausible manner and leaves the reader content with his explanations.
Between reads I reflected over the many similarities this story has had with my own personal life. During the 1970’s decade I had a strong interest in the occult with a myriad of my own supernatural experiences. Added to that, I also once owned a white English bull terrier named ‘Rita’ and following her demise, another one called ‘Annie.’ The inclusion of a bull terrier featuring in such a novel also made this story more personally endearing. As a reader, it felt as if this novel had been exclusively produced just for me and I’m sure many readers will feel likewise. Reading Eye of the Moon was such an enjoyable experience. It may be a big book but the reading is easygoing and there’s enough humour, mystery, suspense, romance and adventure to satisfy even the most jaded of appetites. Throughout the pages ample alcohol was consumed to warrant a sponsorship from the distilleries and I soon lost count how many cigars were lit. There were also exotic menus to drool over and plenty of attractive women.
Ivan Obolensky has written a gothic classic, his assured style is easy to digest and I would recommend his work to anyone who wishes to experience five crammed days of the high life mixed with the mysterious and finishing off this event with a surprise ending. Eye of the Moon is a grand novel worthy of admiration and an extensive audience.