Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight by James Attlee - review by Diana Athill

Diana Athill

Shoot For the Moon

Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight


Hamish Hamilton 320pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

This book may become many people's favourite, for reasons which they will find hard to explain. ‘Moonlight’, says James Attlee in his opening chapter, ‘is a subject almost universally regarded as off-limits to contemporary writers, too kitsch, debased and sentimental to be worthy of serious consideration. This alone would make it a subject worth exploring.’ Particularly so because it had occurred to him that we have paid for the boon of electricity by an almost complete loss of darkness and the moon's lovely alleviation of it – certainly so in towns, under their rusty, pinkish glow of diffused electric light. So he sets out to rediscover and explore the night, and leads us with him in a way so far from being kitsch and sentimental that we become hungry for more.

There can't be many people who have never caught their breath at the sight of a full moon in a clear sky, but the sensations it inspires are inward; the kind of thing usually felt to be material for poets, painters or musicians, rather than for general consideration.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter