34) Moonstone by Sjon
Sjon is an Icelandic novelist, and this short and powerful novel is set in Reykjavik towards the end of the world war in 2018. Máni is a young free-spirited teenager with an intense love of cinema, and a penchant for flights of fancy (primarily about the mystical Sóla G, his sort-of muse). He wanders around, seemingly making money and surviving by selling sex to men.
Then a volcano erupts and influenza hits: both of which fundamentally change the way people live their lives. The films in the cinema keep playing until there is literally no-one who can play the music that accompanies them – when the last pianist drops off her stool, the lights go on and the whole audience realises how ill they all look.
Máni survives, although he goes through some hallucinatory dream sequences, and scary visions of what may (or may not) be happening to him. When not lost in reveries of the mind, he joins and helps out the doctors visiting the patients, seeing people who are ill, unwell and preparing to die.
It’s powerful and mystical stuff, beautifully written and hugely evocative. It also unfurls effortlessly in the final pages to reveal itself as a hugely personal tale – which makes reflecting back on the portrayed events all the more deeply moving. A strange, wonderful and poignant read.
BUY IT NOW: Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was