About the Book
Billy Moon was Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A. A. Milne, the world-famous author of Winnie the Pooh and other beloved children’s classics. Billy’s life was no fairy-tale, though. Being the son of a famous author meant being ignored and even mistreated by famous parents; he had to make his own way in the world, define himself, and reconcile his self-image with the image of him known to millions of children. A veteran of World War II, a husband and father, he is jolted out of midlife ennui when a French college student revolutionary asks him to come to the chaos of Paris in revolt. Against a backdrop of the apocalyptic student protests and general strike that forced France to a standstill that spring, Milne’s new French friend is a wild card, able to experience alternate realities of the past and present. Through him, Milne’s life is illuminated and transformed, as are the world-altering events of that year.
This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.
The thing that attracted me to Billy Moon first was the fact that it’s a historical fantasy novel. I love historical fantasy, and I don’t read enough of it so that genre tends to pull me in pretty quickly. I was also interested in how Lain took a historical figure like Christopher Robin Milne, and based a novel around him. As many people know, Christopher Robin Milne is the son of A.A. Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh.
Billy Moon is an interesting novel in the fact that it’s equal parts history and fantasy. Much of this novel takes place during the turbulent sixties in Europe, in Paris, specifically. It’s a time period where I visualize topless hippies in San Francisco, but know nothing about how the sixties were in Paris. Paris in the late sixties was really a surreal place. There were plenty of strikes which basically paralyzed France. These strikes caused some fascinating political tensions and transformations. Into this hotbed of activity, Lain weaves his own threads of the fantastic, taking a realistic and interesting Paris, and elevating it to something more.
Enter Christopher Robin Milne, a World War II vet, who has his own deep seeded issues. The combination of turbulent Paris, Milne’s own mixed up perspectives and past, and his interesting companions and you truly have a fire keg waiting to explode. That is, perhaps, one of the biggest strengths of Billy Moon. Lain weaves together so many personal and political issues that Lain plays with, that it’s actually quite engrossing and surprising. It’s hard to separate the fantasy and reality, the personal from the public, because it all mixes together so flawlessly.
As I mentioned above, Lain mixes fantasy and reality together almost flawlessly. In fact, so flawlessly that sometimes the lines between the two can be blurred and confused. For example, in the first chapter there is an incident with a cat, which switches between being real and stuffed. This introduces the reader to Christopher Robin Milne’s personal issues of struggling to differentiate reality from fantasy (to put it as simply as possible). While it is effective, this tactic can have a jarring and confusing effect for the reader. It’s hard to tell what is what, and that’s exactly what Lain sets out to do – confuse the reader, show them a bit of what it’s like in Milne’s mind, but some readers might find his tactics a bit too confusing and distracting.
Perhaps one of the most interesting, and profound aspects of this book was how Lain toys with relationships. Milne’s relationship to his (deceased) father is one of both love and a sort of interesting loathing. Milne struggles with his father’s infamous name, his books, and the altered reality it all gave him. On the other hand, Lain also toys with the relationships between reality and fantasy, or dreams. It’s actually quite provocative how he uses history and situations to fuel his exploration of relationship dynamics and their profound and lasting impact on others.
And then Milne figures out why he is the way he is, there are several plot twists and ah ha moments. Milne finds drive and dedication and Lain’s writing carries the reader through it all. Lain’s writing is, engrossing. It’s confusing and surprising and perfectly blends many layers of reality, fantasy, relationships, and personal growth. Billy Moon really isn’t that long of a book. It’s a quick, easy read, but once you’re done you’ll be rather surprised with everything Lain packs into it.
Billy Moon surprised me. I expected a nice easy read, but I got something with depth, a very real historical presence. By the end, I felt like Lain wasn’t writing about a character he studied for some period of time, but he was writing about an experience he had with a good friend. Despite the fact that Billy Moon can be confusing at times, the execution is nearly flawless. This is a short, quick book, that toys with some very provocative themes and is sure to please many readers.