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Soldiers loyally following their Leader act on the advice of a small coal mining town’s traitor to take it over for the benefit of their ongoing war. The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck is wartime novella about a how occupying soldiers learn that peaceful townspeople do not like being told what to do.
Taken by surprise, a small coastal town is overrun by an invading army with little resistance. The town is important because it is a port that serves a large coal mine. Colonel Lanser, the head of the invading battalion, along with his staff establishes their HQ in the house of Orden, the democratically elected and popular Mayor. As the reality of occupation sinks in and the weather turns bleak, with the snows beginning earlier than usual, the townspeople are getting angry and confused. Lanser, a veteran of many wars, tries to operate under a veil of civility and law, but knows that amongst those whose freedom has been taken away by force there are no peaceful people. A miner quits and when kills an officer who orders him back to work in the mine. After a summary trial, the man is executed by a firing squad, but the incident catalyzes the people of the town to begin resisting. Transportation and communication lines are taken out, mine machinery breaks down often, and whenever soldiers get comfortable, they are killed including a young lieutenant infatuated with the widow of the miner who stabs him to death before escaping to the hills. The cold weather and the constant fear destroy the occupying force’s morale, many of whom wish the war to end so that they can return home. Members of the resistance escape to England and ask the English for explosives so that the townspeople can intensify their efforts. English planes parachute-drop small packages containing dynamite sticks and chocolates all around the town. In a state of panic, Lanser takes the Mayor and his friend Dr. Winter, the town doctor and historian, hostage and lets it be known that any guerilla action will lead to their execution. Mayor Orden knows his people will not stop active resistance and accept his imminent death. Knowing that the townspeople will use the dynamite any moment, Orden and Winter discuss Socrates in front of a stunned Lanser until the first explosion. Orden calmly walks out the door before Lanser can verbally order his execution.
Published in the spring of 1942, Steinbeck wrote this obvious propogandist novella to inspire the Allied war effort and through clandestine publishing in occupied Europe to inspire resistance fighters against their German occupiers as well as collaborators. While the town and country are unnamed, it was not hard to tell it was Norway given the clues Steinbeck sprinkled throughout the text.
The Moon Is Down is also a wonder example of John Steinbeck’s writing that is a quick read for anyone deciding if they want to read his more famous works to learn his style. While written for more political than literary purposes that does not diminish the impact of the narrative nor does Steinbeck not put in his best work.
I was introduced to Virginia King and Selkie Moon through a free Amazon copy of Laying Ghosts. I probably found it through a newsletter. Laying Ghosts is still free at the time I created this post, so I hope you take a moment to introduce yourself. Be sure and check to make sure it is still free.
Amazon / Audiobook / Goodreads
I reviewed the Prequel Laying Ghosts, in the Selkie Moon Series by Virginia King, and when the author say it, she offered me a review copy of The First Lie. I love the cover, the location, Hawaii, and any kind of water…person, so there was no doubt in mind I had to continue on with the series. I was not disappointed.
Living in a difficult situation in Sydney she heard the call of Hawaii.
Selkie heard a voice, “Someone is trying to kill you.”
And so we begin. Is it real or a figment of her imagination? Is it Pele, warning her? Is she psychic? She’s seen the woman twice. Who is she? What does she want?
With the name Selkie Moon, I felt things would happen differently and The First Lie did not play out like I thought. It seemed a slow pace, but I think that is on me, not Virginia King…or Selkie herself. It takes time for her to work through her issues, her psychological introspection, growing and developing as a character to come into her own, becoming more mature, poised, and confident.
We have Hawaiian mysticism, and I love Hawaii, so this was that little bit extra that I look for in a good book. And, a friend, Wanda, who believes in all of it. Who doesn’t like to learn about the country they are visiting? I sure do. Years ago, Hawaii was #2 on my bucket list. I was so fortunate I was able to cross that off, though I would love to visit it again.
Selkie Moon almost drowned as a child and has a fear of water. The ocean calls to her, but she turns her back on it. Makes me wonder what is to come, if she won’t even get near it, let alone step into it.
Looking back, I appreciate the slow build and details of her life even more, walking in her footsteps and looking through her eyes. My anticipation for the next book, The Second Path, grew after reading the first chapter. I wasn’t going to read it, but seeing the next book is already out, I know there is no wait. And I do want to know what comes next…very much.
At first it felt hard to rate this, bouncing between a 3 and a 4, while reading. After writing this review and seeing the notes I made, I had to go with a 4.
I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of The First Lie by Virginia King.