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There’s a Moon in the Sky (it’s called the Moon)

Much excitement yesterday, as the Moon passed closer to the Earth than it has for around 20 years.  Only marginally closer, but occupying more sky nevertheless, and bringing people out to marvel from their roofs and doorsteps.

RC Sherriff, best known for Journey’s End, but also scriptwriter of Mrs Miniver, The Dambusters and many others, has had a couple of his 1930s novels republished by the excellent Persephone Books.  One, The Fortnight In September, is firmly in core Persephone territory, and is an understated tale of a family seaside holiday, wherein the characters learn more about themselves as they grow up and get older – it’s a wonderfully calming read.

The other title, The Hopkins Manuscript, is altogether odder.  A fantasy with much HG Wells influence, its premise is that the Moon starts to move closer to the Earth, becoming larger and larger.  At first, governments assure their citizens that the change is a visual trick, then they have to acknowledge that the Moon is on a collision course with us.

Published in 1939, the book is in part an allegory about the rise of fascism.  Unusually – but curiously compellingly – the narrator is an unsympathetic character – an amateur astronomer who is in the know, and believes himself (wholly erroneously) to be superior to his fellows.

Last night’s lunar excitement wasn’t the only reason I’ve found myself thinking about The Hopkins Manuscript.  At the point of calamity, a vast tidal wave sweeps across England, destroying much social and physical infrastructure, and leaving the ocean liner “King Lear” resting in Hopkins’ field.  You can work out the parallels for yourself.  Read the book if you get the chance.

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