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Weekend Reads: “Whisper of the Moon Moth”

Whisper of the Moon Moth by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Whisper of the Moon Moth” begins with a young woman in India, carrying a baby, being abandoned by her new husband as she boards a ship. Needless to say, this sets the tone for the novel.

When next we see this baby, she’s 18 years old. Estelle Thompson loves nothing so much as dancing or going to the movies, and nurses secret dreams of becoming a film star. Mostly, though, she worries that people will discover that she is of mixed English and Indian heritage; there are anti-miscegenation laws and simple prejudice to boot.

Through a variety of circumstances, Estelle winds up in England with a letter of introduction for a screen test. She’s cast in a couple of minor roles, and then lands the part of Anne Boleyn in “The Private Life of Henry VIII.” It is at this point that her name is changed to Merle Oberon.

I looked up Oberon’s biography and found that, in the main, this book sticks to the facts of her life (there are some fictionalized incidents, of course). The author has clearly done her homework. The book is peopled with theatre and film folk from the 1930s, all of whose names are immediately recognizable to classic movie fans. We get a good look at both the London and Hollywood film business, as well as a compelling story.

Highly recommended.

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