3 out of 4 stars
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At this dismal time of year, we might dream of a holiday somewhere warm, with moonlit beaches and romance. What if you meet someone so special you move to an exotic location, only to have paradise become hell?
The novel Shattered Moon by Renata Lanzoni tells the true story of a woman whose holiday romance takes her to terrifying places. Maddy Jones, the 42-year-old protagonist, takes a break from a gloomy life in England and finds a new lease of life in Sri Lanka. When she first meets Kiri, he seems attentive and caring. The pair have only known each other for a matter of days, however, when the red flags start to rise. Maddy is blindsided the first time Kiri turns from Jekyll into Hyde. He is irrationally jealous and possessive, accusing Maddy of being interested in his friend Sanka and of lusting after surfers. Even at this early stage, she becomes trained to keep her eyes on the empty parts of the beach.
Why does she put up with this? The following is an example of her thought processes: “I feel sorry for this young man, who seems to have grown so fond of me so quickly. I feel responsible for upsetting him. I feel important, valued by his outburst. If he was so upset, he must care a lot more than I thought possible.” After a Hyde episode, Kiri hunts Maddy down to apologise. Is he really sorry? He has told her how hard his childhood was. Ignoring her gut, Maddy decides that Kiri’s hostility arises from a need to protect himself from being hurt. Can she heal him with her love, ensuring that he stays in Jekyll mode?
Lanzoni does an excellent job of portraying the heroine's emotions and confusion. Maybe because Maddy narrates with the benefit of hindsight, her mistakes seem understandable. Indeed, I found myself deeply immersed in the character and the story. This may have been partly because I have had experiences similar to Maddy’s, but it could also be credited to the immediacy of the writing. The fast-paced action is interspersed with more leisurely passages. Sometimes the book reads like travel writing. The style is plain but descriptive nevertheless. We contemplate the blues and purples of the sky as the tropical night falls quickly, dodge oncoming buses on the chaotic roads, and dance on the beach under a full moon.
I enjoyed both the descriptions and a story that read increasingly like a thriller. I was compelled to see how the relationship developed and how Maddy would cope. There were early hints that there was something Maddy didn't know about Kiri; I was keen to learn what secrets might be revealed.
On a more negative note, this book doesn’t appear to have been professionally edited. I repeatedly came across missing periods and other punctuation errors. I was irritated by misspellings, such as “my flash” instead of “my flesh” at a dramatic point.
This book would appeal to those who appreciate true-life stories. It would be good for a book club because it contains a lot of material for discussion. It could also be validating for survivors of abusive relationships, provided they aren't triggered by it - discretion is advised. There are a few graphic descriptions of sex and violence, so this is suitable for a mature audience.
I recommend this book both for its compelling story and vital message. Perhaps it could even prevent someone from having to learn about abusive relationships the hard way. It is an engrossing read, but because of the lack of editing, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars.
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