The mesmerising new novel by Iceland's internationally renowned writer Sjón - 'the trickster that makes the world, and he is achingly brilliant' Junot Díaz, 'an extraordinary and original writer' A.S. Byatt.
Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize
'An extraordinary and original writer'
A.S. Byatt on Sjón
Reykjavik, 1918. The eruptions of the Katla volcano darken the sky night and day. Yet despite the natural disaster, the shortage of coal and the Great War still raging in the outside world, life in the small capital goes on as always.
Sixteen-year-old Máni Steinn lives for the movies. Awake, he lives on the fringes of society. Asleep, he dreams in pictures, the threads of his own life weaving through the tapestry of the films he loves.
When the Spanish flu epidemic comes ashore, killing hundreds of townspeople and forcing thousands to their sick beds, the shadows that linger at the edges of existence grow darker and Máni is forced to re-evaluate both the society around him and his role in it.
Evoking the moment when Iceland's saga culture met the new narrative form of the cinema and when the isolated island became swept up in global events, this is the story of a misfit transformed by his experiences in a world where life and death, reality and imagination, secrets and revelations jostle for dominance.
Sjón's prose is never histrionic or overwrought, balancing rage and hallucination . . . with a gentleness of spirit, an affection for precision and the small scale. The result is sure to delight his fans and convert many new ones. — Hari Kunzru, Guardian
MOONSTONE is Sjón's slim, simmering masterpiece. Vibrant and visceral, briskly paced but meditative, unsettling yet droll and flecked with beauty, it is a pitch-perfect study of transgression, survival and love. — David Mitchell
A work of miniaturist perfection: a brief, brilliant jewel of a book in which each paragraph is precision-cut, each sentence burnished. — Sarah Crown, Guardian
I always enjoy Sjón's books, but Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was is an experience like no other. The author confronts his own limits, and raises the bar for the reader too. His portrayal of Reykjavik in 1918 is magical. The scene where a movie theatre falls silent, because all the musicians have succumbed to an outbreak of Spanish flu, is marvellous and very amusing. The novel has given me my best reading experience this year. — Eka Kurniawan, Best Books of 2016, Financial Times
Tender, elegiac and occasionally surreal — Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times, Summer Books
A magical book, the work of a great illusionist. You see the historical moment unfurl, luminous with desire and imagination and the flames of an erupting volcano, dark with repression, disease and death. You see it all through the poetic, poignant images of Máni Steinn's story. And then in a final flourish you see it all vanish in a way that makes it unforgettable. — Adam Foulds
Sjòn's Moonstone is a marvel of a novel, queer in every sense of the word - an impeccable little gem — Rabih Alameddine
When the meaning of the book's subtitle is finally explained, the effect is powerful. MOONSTONE is about human decency, courage and respect for the individual. It is a small book with a large heart. — Chris Power, New Statesman
Moonstone takes its place among the great works of literature that have documented life during the Spanish-flu epidemic . . . Sjón is one of our era's great writers. Like Ovid, Kafka, and Bulgakov, he is fascinated by metamorphosis and, from apparently limitless resources of the imagination, can convey what it must feel like. — Charles Baxter, The Nation