‘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. Attlee has found a way of engaging with them which brings them out on to the open stage provided by prose without loss of mystery or charm. It is this achievement which is difficult to pin down.

more from Diana Athill at Literary Review here.