The Moon is Blue is such an enjoyable, funny, warm and enchanting book to read. The characters resemble those who inhabit our favourite Roald Dahl tales. Martyn Hesford cleverly enters the mind of a sweet young girl and brings to life her innocent, yet incisive, worldview. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the poetic style of writing and found myself laughing out loud from time to time.
Unfortunately, from a Catholic point of view, this is definitely not a Catholic book. I saw this book advertised on a Catholic forum on Facebook and looked forward to delving into what I thought was a story about a Marion apparition. Hesford certainly makes it clear that young Flo sees Mary the mother of Jesus in several visions. From there, the story details what happens to Flo and her family when the world discovers that Flo has seen Mary and can speak to her.
Flo becomes a superstar and overnight sensation. Her ‘keepers’ quickly develop a range of holy water perfumes, fridge magnets, t shirts and other paraphernalia. People flock to see her and the special blue rose that Mary has gifted her.
Hesford steers away from suggesting that anything miraculous occurs in this story. Instead, the healing powers of the rose are referred to as “magical” and Mary’s visits to Flo are considered “mystical”. While there are plenty of lessons learnt in the story as various characters inevitably fall from grace and lose all of their newfound wealth, the story does not mention God nor does it attribute any of these occurrences to the power of God. Instead, the ‘power of the blue rose’ to heal the elderly is celebrated. One newspaper headline screams ‘ROSE CURES QUEEN’S BUNIONS’. The blue rose itself is steadfastly referred to as having these magical properties – no mention of the miraculous power of God.
I have no doubt that author, Martyn Hesford, has deliberately steered the story away from an outright reference to God or God’s miraculous powers. Mary is presented as a kind and friendly lady who speaks simply to young Flo and provides special gifts such as the blue rose and a blue butterfly. When the blue butterfly is crushed by an angry elderly man, Flo is heartbroken. She longs to be back home visiting her favourite chip shop and playing with her best friend.
The story ends with Flo’s parents being convicted in court of defrauding the public and the Queen of money and are sentenced to five years polishing old people’s shoes after work. Everything settles back to normality and Flo makes up with her best friend, George. Mary continues to appear to both of them for a while when they are playing. Her purpose for appearing to the children is never really made clear, other than she wants them to know that she is their friend.
I felt that Hesford prolonged the ending of the book unnecessarily, as young Flo is given a short mystical experience of ‘being one’ with all of nature. There are also references to ‘love’ and there not being enough ‘love’ in the world. In the final, short chapter we move forward in time and teenage Flo is lying in a field with George, enjoying a long sunny afternoon. Flo and George share a kiss, and the nature of ‘love’ is revealed to them. The ending did not work for me. The ‘love’ that Mary had previously refered to is reduced to romantic love – not sacrificial love. Not a ‘fitting’ end to this otherwise delightful book.
If you are searching for a Catholic worldview, you will not find it in this book. From a Catholic perspective it is problematic. As a piece of literature, it is interesting, fun and engaging, although the final chapters drift weakly towards an ending that feels somehow discordant.