Rescued girl holds the key to mystery in this novel set in the first world war [Review]

Rescued girl holds the key to mystery in this novel set in the first world war [Review]

Listen to the Moon
By Michael Morpurgo
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN 978 0 00 7339631

In May 1915, the passenger ship RMS Lusitania, the grandest and most luxurious ship in the world, was crossing the Atlantic from New York to Europe. She was due to dock in England on May 7.

Though the first world war was at its height, civilian passenger ships had unspoken safe passage across the Atlantic. But early in the afternoon of May 7, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine. She sank to the bottom of the ocean in only 18 minutes, killing more than 1,000 people.

Award-winning English author Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) uses the terrible and controversial loss of the RMS Lusitania as one of the focal points in his stunning first world war novel, Listen to the Moon.

Alfie Wheatcroft lives with his parents on one of the small Scilly Islands off the southwest tip of Britain. The Scillies are the home to a few scattered fishing families, but by 1915, even there life has been tainted by war.

One day, as Alfie is fishing with his dad, they are drawn to a small island by sound of human crying, and the two of them discover an undernourished girl hiding in the ruins of a rundown building.

The girl can't remember who she is or how she got onto the island. She can only say one word: the name "Lucy".

The Wheatcrofts take the girl back to their home to care for her. The rest of the islanders are intrigued by "Lucy Lost", but their intrigue soon turns to suspicion. Is she a young spy planted on the islands by German intelligence? The islanders need answers.

There is much more to Listen to the Moon than a mere "who is she?" mystery. The morals of war, bigotry and the bonds of family are woven together in this outstanding novel.

Morpurgo is great at describing people and places, and here his image of an isolated community is skilfully drawn.

Some of the characters are a bit black and white, with a good doctor and a nasty school teacher, but the family at the centre of the story is very real.

Looming large over the story is the shadow of the mighty Lusitania. This great ship has been pushed into the background by the story of the more famous Titanic, but this novel does a great job in bringing this other doomed ocean liner back into public awareness. Has James Cameron bought the movie rights yet?

John Millen can be contacted on


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