Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 1, 2011

Reading by Moonlight (2010) by Brenda Walker, read by Jane Nolan

I feel a bit guilty about not liking this book more – that’s a strange reaction to have, isn’t it?

Reading by Moonlight is a memoir of Brenda Walker’s journey with breast cancer, a journey that she undertook with books as solace and distraction from fear and pain.  It was shortlisted for non-fiction awards in the 2010 WA Premier’s and 2011 NSW Premiers’ Awards, and it won the 2010 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction as well as the 2011 Kibble Award.  It’s a very impressive book and it obviously took courage and strength of character to write it.

What I really liked, was Walker’s observations about the books.   When she reminisced about Tolstoy, Nabokov, Beckett and Dickens,  I kept wishing I was back in my BA English tutorial classes with her as my tutor.  I really liked her ideas about those authors and although it was a bit ponderous here and there I mostly felt that Walker had offered insights that were fresh and new for me.

(I wasn’t as interested in her thoughts about Japanese literature because I wasn’t familiar with the books or the style of writing.   This is a grave deficiency in my reading experience, one that I will eventually redress, starting with the three Murakami novels I have in my TBR).

Walker’s previous novel, The Wing of Night which I read back in 2007 before I started this blog, was a remarkable book which I found unputdownable.  I wrote pages and pages about it in my journal!  It is even more remarkable now that I know it was written during Walker’s long and painful treatment for a life-threatening disease.

However, I am not a fan of the memoir, and there were too many times in this book when I felt drawn into an existential crisis I didn’t want to share.  And it is hard not to feel guilty when you don’t really enjoy a book, if it’s written by someone you pity.

Sandra Hogan at MC Reviews thought highly of it, and there is an excerpt on the First Tuesday website.

© Lisa Hill

Reading by MoonlightAuthor: Brenda Walker
Title: Reading by Moonlight
Publisher: Louis Braille Audio, 2011
ISBN: 7817421276135
Source: Personal library, purchased from Benn’s Books.

I can’t find where to buy the audio book online (Booko hasn’t got it) and the Louis Braille website is down while they renovate it. But you can buy the book from Fishpond: Reading by Moonlight


  1. Hi Lisa,

    I had a similar reaction to yourself after reading this book. I bought the book after attending one of Brenda’s sessions at this year’s Perth Writers’ Festival, and I found that while I enjoyed parts of the book, particularly where she talks about Tolstoy and Dickens, I may not have been in the right frame of mind to read it, as I came away feeling rather low. Biblio and writing therapy are two things that I’m very interested in, and although I see the book’s merits (obviously, it hasn’t been shortlisted and won awards for no reason) I think this book as a personal journey of healing really is that – personal.


  2. Hi Britt, I really don’t know about this one. Readers are all different and perhaps some people would find this inspiring or empowering, but her descriptions of the treatment had the effect of making me rather afraid. I had thought when I bought it that I might pass it on to three friends in various stages of recovery from breast cancer, but now I think it might be both too harrowing for them to revisit the experience this way.


  3. […] 1990: Brenda Walker, Crush, see my review of Reading by Moonlight […]


  4. […] 1990: Brenda Walker, Crush, see my review of Reading by Moonlight […]


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