The story opens with a woman, Katherine, who when swimming out of her depth encounters a seal. What begins as an encounter with nature becomes something more chilling, hinting at the depths of the story about to be told.
“…it is his eyes – the eyes of this wild animal – that terrify Katherine the most; huge, opaque and overbold, they hold on her like the lustrous black-egged eyes of a ruined man.” Katherine’s fear when encountering the seal is a mystery until much later in the book, when we understand the memories it disturbed.
Ghost Moth by Michèle Forbes [below] is the story of Katherine and George, the beginnings of their love in 1949 and its endurance until death in 1969. The setting is Belfast: in 1949, post-War when Katherine sings Carmen in a local opera production and meets Tom, the tailor who sews her costume and flirts with her. Tom, who forces Katherine to examine the nature of her feelings for boyfriend George. Tom, who tempts her so she can never forget him. And Belfast, wrought by The Troubles in 1969 when even Katherine’s small children are challenged on the street for being of the ‘wrong’ religion. Katherine cannot forget Tom.The novel examines the nature of love set against a city in 1969 where hatred is demonstrated every day on the streets with burning buses and ransacked shops. Can love ever be forgotten? Should young love be allowed to affect a marriage, years later? And is it better to tell the truth when the truth hurts, or protect your loved one by remaining silent?
In 1949, Katherine and Tom share quiet moments together as he makes her Carmen costume. Katherine forgets her new fiancé, George, in the eroticism of Tom taking a measuring-tape to her body. He describes to her how he will construct her dress. “I’ll insert the bone through the aperture of the casing, sliding it firmly upward all the way to the top of the seam. I’ll draw the bone back just a little, if I need to, so that it won’t force the material. The spring of the bone must always be right.” Compared with this sensuality, volunteer fireman George is a pale alternative.
But one night, before the night’s performance of Carmen begins, something happens which changes the lives of this love triangle.
The title of the book refers to the pale moths [below] which Katherine’s father told her: “…that some people believed that ghost moths were the souls of the dead waiting to be caught, and some people believed that they were only moths.” For me, the double symbolism of the romantic moths and chilling seal was too much. Just one of them would suffice. I think I prefer the seal.To listen to Michèle Forbes talk about her debut novel, Ghost Moth, click here.
Download a free audio sample of Ghost Moth here.
For Michèle Forbes’ website, click here.
‘Ghost Moth’ by Michèle Forbes [pub in the UK by Phoenix on August 14, 2014]