A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
There are some books that define you at a certain moment in your life. Some, on the other hand, illustrate what you want your future to look like, who you want to be “when you grow up”. For me, Moon Tiger was the latter.
It was on a suggested reading list in the summer between my first and second year of college. I was 17, prone to wearing scarves as belts, head-over-heels in love for the very first time and never to be seen without a book in my hand. While others groaned, I snatched up that reading list and rushed to the library. I have never been able to resist a reading list.
Moon Tiger is the story of Claudia Hampton, a fiercely intelligent (and, occasionally, just plain fierce), beautiful and famous writer. She is dying in hospital and the nurses seem to have no idea that she was once such a dynamo. From her hospital bed she declares that she is going to write a history of the world. But the book is not just her story, Lively manages to use all perspectives – Claudia’s brother Gordon, her daughter Lisa, her lover Jasper. Lively switches effortlessly between them, but of course, Claudia’s is the most strident voice of all.
When I was 17, desperate to write, to change the world and to explore it, I overlooked the darker aspects of Claudia’s character. I admired her for cutting such a dash, for being so smart and sassy. I wanted to travel across the world, writing about what I saw, having wild romances. Re-reading it now, I see how she is flawed, how she fails as a mother and as a friend. Claudia is perhaps not the best person for a young girl to admire. But admire her I did and even now, I admire her sharpness, her determination to live as she pleases, to not go gentle into that good night.
That is what I take from the book now. I am the opposite of Claudia, I knew it then and I know it now. But that is why this book had such impact on me. I saw in it what I needed to learn – I needed to learn to be tougher, to take things less to heart, to be willing to open my mouth and voice my opinions. And that is exactly what I did. I have never cut quite the same dash that Claudia has, but I have argued for what I believed it, I did finally put pen to paper. Most of all, I stopped caring so much about what others thought.
Moon Tiger is a wonderful book. The characters, the story, the way Lively changes perspective, all make for a good read. And at only a little over 200 pages, it’s a quick read too.
But it also proves that you can learn something from even the most frustrating and flawed characters. Claudia Hampton taught me that I have a voice and by channelling Claudia, I learned the courage to use that voice.
Penguin Classics, 2006. ISBN-10:9780141188317. 224pp.
[Proof, if proof were necessary, that Nikki has found her voice can be found here, at her blog]