Mooncranker’s Gift by Barry Unsworth

Unsworth, Barry - Mooncranker's Gift

I’ve explained elsewhere in this blog that when my hubby gets an idea into his head it can be difficult to shift.  Like the idea that because I’ve read and enjoyed Barry Unsworth’s later novels (1980 onwards) I’ll obviously be gasping to read his entire back catalogue.

That sounds ungrateful.  I don’t mean to be.  Some of Unsworth’s earlier stuff is out of print, it’s taken hubby some time to track it down, and I’m flattered he’s taken the trouble.  So I’ve dutifully ploughed through The Partnership (1966) and The Greeks Have a Word for It (1967) as my earlier reviews will testify; The Hide (1970) is nestling in the pile of unread books next to my bed, from which I recently plucked Mooncranker’s Gift (1973).

The titular Mooncranker is an alcoholic, has-been celebrity-academic; his titular gift was a figure Christ on the Cross fashioned from sausage meat – yes, sausage meat – made ten years previously to the (then) 13 year old James Farnaby.  The gift traumatises young James.   The reader is supposed understand, to care about the damage this “evil” act has wrought, the “boy’s corruption”.  The problem was, I didn’t and I couldn’t.  One sausage meat Christ-figure isn’t much to hang a book on, especially one this self-consciously worthy.   Am I missing something?

Unsworth has written some great books, notably Sacred Hunger (1992), which won the Booker prize in 1992.  Unfortunately this isn’t one of them.  And The Hide will stay languishing in the unread books pile for sometime longer, I think.

I never thought I’d say it about an Unsworth novel but…

0 Don’t bother

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