Catch The Moon, Mary is the story of a gifted young girl, whose musical enchantment was borne out of the horror of being abused, sexually and emotionally, by her father. Her music comes to her not as you and I perceive it, but as colour and texture and instinct … each note has a personality, each chord is ablaze with meaning, and the people she meets are interpreted as melodious harmonies or clashing discords. Whilst her music has never failed her, self-belief is an enigma, and it’s difficult to read the passages where such a young girl describes herself a ‘mad’ or ‘ugly’; a conviction that’s taken root in her because of the thoughtlessly cruel jibes of others.
The instrument felt tired, flogged … Mary whispered assurances to the exhausted instrument, calming it as a jockey might calm a highly strung overworked racehorse … “What are you? A piano whisperer?” he asked with a sour laugh.
Whilst Mary’s music is her escape from life’s cruelest realities, it also summons the attentions of a fallen angel who will steer Mary’s future irrevocably. In return for freedom from her father’s abhorrent attentions, 11-year old Mary enters into an insidious pact with Gabriel, agreeing that her music will be his from the day she has grown up enough that her hands can span a full chord on the piano.
Lifting the piano lid was like opening a magician’s box
In spite of his angelic biology, Gabriel’s actions aren’t entirely pure of heart. Granted, he’s rescued Mary from her monstrous father, but his intentions are greedy and self-serving, and his possessiveness threatens to overwhelm Mary’s daily life. Yes, we are talking the archangel Gabriel here – and he’s been earthbound for centuries in a quest to restore faith amongst mortals, and to find his beloved brother, Rigel who he’s convinced will help him fulfil this.
Everybody rushing about in pursuit of nothing, producing little of lasting value. No-one stands still long enough to hear his own soul crying out for meaning.
In all honesty, I shrank back from the book initially as I thought it could tip over in to the realms of religion. At this point, I want to make it very clear that whilst I don’t follow any religion I wholeheartedly respect those who do … it’s just not for me. And if anybody comes knocking at my door, or approaches me in the street (pre-Covid, of course!!) to ‘sell’ the merits of their religion to me, they’re tapping-up the wrong gal … and I was nervous this book might head that way.
But it didn’t, not in the slightest … and so on I read.
From the very first moment Gabriel heard Mary’s music, he knew its beauty and power was his ticket to success … a ticket back into his father’s good books … and that any obstruction to his redemption was something to be removed. With Mary as his sole source of redemption, Gabriel’s attentions quickly turn toxic, killing those who have the power to stand between Mary and the fêted stage of Carnegie Hall.
“CARNEGIE HALL’S MISSION IS TO PRESENT EXTRAORDINARY MUSIC AND MUSICIANS, AND TO BRING THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF MUSIC TO THE WIDEST POSSIBLE AUDIENCE.” GOOGLE
The dichotomy of this gentle, mild-mannered young pianist shines through in the face of Gabriel’s stifling control; vulnerable but courageous; naive yet wise; loyal but independent. As the book progresses, so too their relationship evolves and the power starts to shift – Mary becomes as much Gabriel’s rescuer as he was hers all those years ago. They reflect each other’s loneliness, understand each other’s emotional scars, and help each other live a life each thought was beyond their grasp.
Catch The Moon, Mary is an incredibly vivid and poignant book, lyrically written, and with a depth of wisdom and tenderness that speaks of someone who’s lived many, many lives. The chapters are short, yet full of life, and each is titled with a musical term that teases you into the themes woven into the following pages.
In fact, music is at the very heart of this book – which is not a surprise when you read about Wendy Waters’ background (as you’ll see when you read the author bio at the end of this review). The music has colour and scent and flavour; it drips from the pages.
To rip-off an infamous song: The pages are alive with the sound of music .
They chime. They resonate. They are pianissimo, and they are forte. And they are impossible to put down!
I feel extremely privileged to have read this book and, as I said at the start of this review, the end came without those dreaded post-book blues. That’s not for want of engagement – far from it! I found the story compelling, the prose hypnotic, the characters thoroughly human and likeable. I’ve even waited a few days since finishing Catch The Moon, Mary before writing this review, in the hope of understanding the magic that’s kept those blues away. I put it down to the very richness of Wendy’s storytelling; the human bonds of love, family, friendship, and loss fill the pages and resonate like the purest note long after the book is closed.
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about Wendy Waters
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Wendy Waters is an award-winning author, composer, lyricist and librettist. Born in Australia, she grew up in Sydney, lived in the USA for six years and now divides her time between London, Sydney and Paris. In 2011 Waters volunteered to work with OASIS Salvation Army Crisis Centre in Sydney, helping musically gifted young people streamline their talent and it was there that she first conceived of the idea of a guardian angel rescuing a troubled or abused child as many of the young people at Oasis spoke of guardian angels coming to their rescue at times of danger. Turning the angel into the one in need of rescue was the twist that gave Catch the Moon, Mary its leverage.
Waters has also written three musicals: ‘Fred’, ‘Alexander’ and ‘The Last Tale’ (with composer Shanon Whitelock).
Waters’ debut novel, Catch the Moon, Mary was published in the UK in 2015 and has been adapted by Waters into both a stage play and a screenplay. The play and Fred had staged readings at Tristan Bates Theatre in 2017 with graduate students from Amanda Redman’s ATS Drama School.
Music is a constant theme in Waters’ work and it still plays a major role in her latest novel, Fields of Grace.