Elsa and her husband Paul enjoy comfortable life in Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. When they purchase the Pensione Alexandra in Naples, their life changes. They host guests from different countries. Many of the visitors remain family friends. Almost all guests have been impacted by actions of Nazi Germany. Idyllic life in Naples drastically changes for Elsa and her family when war starts and Italy supports Germany. The family realize that nothing keeps them in Naples and they have to flee to America where other relatives live. However, the escape is not easy. Elsa’s way to America is long and hard.
One More Moon is a continuation to Smile in One Eye; a Tear in the Other published by Ralph in 2016. In his new book, the author shows war from woman’s perspective. I think there have not been enough women’s testimonies of war. Therefore, One More Moon contributes enormously to collective memory and to women’s studies. The book tells about women’s situation in 1930s. Women had different roles and they were treated in different ways. They suffered from various limitations and had different expectations. Naples, like other places in Europe, was a masculine world. Men set the rules and women had to play the roles created for them. Elsa’s husband Paul, was the breadwinner and had the last word in all decisions. Women did not have a right to complain and express their grievances. Ralph did such a great job by describing how his grandmother became self- confident woman. Elsa was under someone’s protection for most of her life. First she was under protection of her parents, and then under protection of her husband. She never had a chance to attend university as her brother did. She never thought about independent life. She said nowadays there is much talk about glass ceilings. She explained “I grew up in a time when the glass ceiling was held up by four glass walls”. Elsa was fifty- one years old when she discovered she actually wanted something more from life and learnt to be confident. With the Pensione Alexandra she moved “from second fiddle to first violin” in her marriage. She said she “became part of the world there”.
Moreover, despite separation from her children, uncertainty about the future, remaining a refugee for long time, Elsa showed high spirit, she never gave up. After arrival to the United States, Elsa adjusted better to the new life than her husband. In this new world, with new language and different way of life, Elsa became a breadwinner. Elsa gives an advice to the generations that follow “listen to others but ask your own questions and draw your own conclusions based upon knowledge and facts”.
Some feminists say that men do not have a right to speak about women’s experiences. In this particular case I disagree. Ralph did a wonderful job. I think he was meant to be speaking in his grandmother’s name. In our still patriarchal societies people tend to think about women through their fathers, husbands, and children. Indeed, Elsa had a husband and children but this book makes me think about her in separation from other people. She was courageous human being, a super woman. Elsa symbolises women around the world that share similar experience.
My appreciation for this book is not limited to its main heroine. I think One More Moon is well thought out book. Family story is skilfully intertwined into Italian political events. All events are well- connected and I did not notice any inconsistencies. Ralph provides detail description of family experiences, for example, going through asylum procedure. The book gives insight into existence under Mussolini’s rule: spread of propaganda, daily life rules, role of religion in politics, presence of Blackshirts around the country and deteriorating situation of Jews. Ralph found a balance between family drama and Italian and international politics. Political events do not overshadow Elsa’s story. The book should satisfy both those who like family memoir and those who are into historical reads. In overall, I am sure Ralph put a lot of effort into writing this book.
I really like the title of the book. Josel, a guest at Alexandra who became family friend, gave Elsa his own work watercolour painting… One More Moon. The title makes me I think about Elsa sitting on the balcony of Alexandra, watching the moon and listening to the stories of her guests. It tells me that although she experienced hardship of being refugee, she also had a happy life. It reminds about title of Ralph’s first book Smile in One Eye; a Tear in the Other, which also shows life full of ups and downs. I must admit that to the extent, the title makes me sad because I feel like Elsa says goodbye. What she wants to see is one more moon…
The end of the book explaining family ties is like a cherry on the cake! It is wonderful to read that… noooo I am not going to tell you! Read it yourself and enjoy it!
P.S. Let us not forget those who lost their lives and those who survived war and Holocaust. It is of special importance to tell their stories to the world. Their lives, experiences, suffering as well as happiness should not be forgotten. They are the contributors to the history of humanity.
Overall rating: 5/5 (it deserves 6 though!)
I received the book from the author in exchange for honest review.