This book is the winner of the Andrea Badenoch Fiction Award. The passionate love affair between Spitfire pilot Bobby Harris and photographer's model Nina Tate lasts through the turmoil of World War Two, but is tested when his plane is shot down. Disfigured and wanting to hide from the world, Bobby retreats from Bohemian Soho to the empty house his grandfather has left him, a house haunted by the secrets of Bobby's childhood, where the mysteries of his past are gradually unravelled and he discovers that love is more than skin deep. Following on from The Boy I Love, Marion Husband's highly acclaimed debut novel, Paper Moon explores the complexities of love and loyalty against a backdrop of a world transformed by war.
NICHOLAS CLEE, The Guardian, Saturday April 15, 2006
Love lies bleeding
Paper Moon, and its predecessor The Boy I Love, are notable for an understated yet intense sympathy for the movements of the heart.
One of the most affecting scenes in the new novel, set in the aftermath of the second world war, is the honeymoon night of Jane and Adam Mason. Jane, a teacher, has married Adam, a headmaster, in spite of his warning that he is offering her companionship rather than passion. Only in her Scarborough hotel room does she begin to realise what he meant. She stands at the window, wearing the negligee she has bought for the occasion. "The negligee was cut on the bias, a heavy, pale ivory satin, luminous as freshwater pearls, the most beautiful thing she had ever owned. It made her feel huge and clumsy. She put her hands to its lacy front and imagined tearing it in two. From the bed Adam had said, 'I'm sorry.'"
Adam wants marriage partly for company, and partly for respectability. We first meet him in The Boy I Love, welcoming home his lover, Paul Harris, from the first world war. Paul's personal life, difficult enough as a homosexual in a small northern town, gets more complicated. He marries the pregnant girlfriend of his late brother and then starts an affair with Pat, a local butcher.
Paper Moon introduces Bobby, Paul's son. In a prologue set in 1939, Bobby is the lover of Nina, with whom he models for pornographic photographs. Later, Nina marries one of Paul's fellow pilots, but is soon widowed. Bobby is disfigured when his plane crashes, and after the war returns to his hometown, Thorp.
Nina lacks the complications that animate Husband's best writing. The author is more at home with tortured characters such as Bobby, whose horror at his injuries has curdled into self-loathing and agoraphobia. In a painful episode early in the novel, Bobby visits the menswear department of the local store; when the assistant advises him that the store closes in five minutes, conceding that maybe the opening times were different "in your day", Bobby flips, and starts throwing ties over the floor. "'I'm twenty-five,'" he tells the assistant. "'Twenty-five.'"
Jane, dismayed by her life as a married spinster and agonisingly aware of an unfulfilled sexuality, is another fully realised character. When Jane and Bobby meet, they fall in love with the alacrity of Mozart protagonists. Husband, though, has prepared the ground for this coup de foudre.
Paper Moon conveys an era of rationing, of bomb-ravaged townscapes, of a defeated exhaustion belying the outcome of the conflict that preceded it. It is not as taut a novel as The Boy I Love: Husband follows various narrative threads, and in places some of them go slack. But its evocation of quiet lives, intensely lived, is similarly impressive.
COMMENTS FROM AMAZON READERS:
"Paper Moon is a very absorbing, very moving story and one I really enjoyed. The main character Bobby Harris is fascinating and the England of 1946 Marion Husband evokes is very convincing."
"I and my fellow book group readers found Paper Moon very readable and very entertaining and it provoked some lively discussions within our group. I thought the sex scenes were very well written and moving and her evocation of post-war Britain was very convincing, all description being done with a light touch. I also very much enjoyed the character development - especially that of the central character Bobby and liked the fact that characters from Husband's very wonderful The Boy I Love made a re-appearance in this book.
"Paper Moon is a real page turner, a love story set just after the 2nd World War, following the lives of several very well drawn characters that I really cared about. I fell in love with the main character Bobby Harris, a complex and totally believeable character, and really empathised with him - the flash-back scenes were particularly moving. Nina, the second character, is fascinating. I read this novel in only a couple of days - needing to know how it would turn out, and wasn't disappointed with its ending. Even better than Marion Husband's first novel, The Boy I Love- which I would thoroughly recommend - I couldn't put it down.