19 March 2012

Review: By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer

2012 is the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, and this week I am reviewing two novels set on the fated ship and a third that has Titanic flashbacks. Hopefully they will be an improvement on the movie! (While I like both Kate Winslett and Leonardo di Caprio as actors, I didn't like the movie plot and haven't listened to Celine Dion since).  The movie will be re-released on 6 April in 3D as a tribute (with the Blu-ray to follow. Cashing in?) As you may have guessed, I won't be going to see it. Anyway, on to By the Light of the Silvery Moon.

Quentin's mother drowned when he was only a small boy, and he is now returning to America. Although he comes from an affluent background, he has been barely surviving on the streets of London for the last two years. Damien Walpole and his father are returning to America after a business trip to London, where they also searched for Damien's lost younger brother. The two brothers are quite different, but both have their strengths, and both have their faults.

Amelia is boarding the Titanic with her Aunt Neda, who has raised her since her mother left to follow the call of the sea when Amelia was just six. The two are now travelling to America at the behest of Elizabeth, Neda's daughter, and her neighbour Mr Chapman, who has been corresponding with Amelia and has paid for their tickets. Amelia has a passion for helping those without fathers or mothers, no doubt because of her own upbringing. A twist of fate and an act of kindness sees Quentin on the same voyage.

The key in a book about a well-known historical event is to engage the reader to the point that they get so engrossed in the story that they forget what is coming. Goyer has achieved this by creating a cast of interrelated characters that the reader is keen to explore, and written with a very readable voice.  The themes are familiar - pride, love, forgiveness and reconciliation.  By the Light of the Silvery Moonis quite plainly a Christian novel, with Christian characters and an underlying Christian theme, but it only rarely sermonises.

If there are any faults, they would be that Amelia is almost too good to be true - I got somewhat tired of reading about her never-ending good deeds.  Another potential fault is that the plot has overtones of the biblical story of the Prodigal Son, but with two added twists: which brother survives? Which brother gets the girl?  It's not that I don't like the story of the Prodigal Son - I do - it is just that I prefer original stories where I am not distracted by thinking I know what is going to happen (if that makes sense, given that I am reading a novel where I know the ship sinks and over 1,500 people drown). But Goyer manages to conquer even this potential fault, by providing insight into the feelings and motivations of the responsible brother. He often comes across as proud and unlikeable in sermons, but Goyer makes him likeable and heroic.

There were a few things that annoyed me about this book, mostly to do with the editing and fact checking, which will hopefully be cleared up in the final print edition. But the writing, the plot, the themes, the characters, the integration of a clear and uncompromising gospel message - those things were excellent. The prodigal son and his responsible brother facing the icy waters surrounding the Titanic raise the question of another inheritance, a spiritual inheritance, an inheritance that we can forget but that can never be destroyed.

Thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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