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Blanche by John Moat, published by Panacea Books, Devon, U.K.





Five men literally and metaphorically ‘miss the boat’ and as a consequence find themselves sharing a cottage on a neglected country estate. Into the midst of their amiable, haphazard and ramshackle existence comes Blanche. Enigmatic, beautiful, secretive and bedevilled, like the goddess Kali, Blanche has the power to create and affirm or bring about chaos and destruction.

     The reader is drawn into the enchantment of the lives shared in the communal cottage: the remoteness from modernity and the evocation of each changing season weaves a powerful spell. Whilst livings must be earned elsewhere, real life happens only in and around the brooding environs of the estate. But even in this place set apart, fate must run its course. No one is inviolable and tragedy when it strikes is sudden and final… and yet not entirely irrevocable because in time, so much is healed – until the ending startles with its proof of ultimate integration.

     Blanche is a haunting, atmospheric love story, and as with all John Moat’s writing, what is happening on the surface is merely a reflection: the real story – the authentic communication – is taking place elsewhere. With an uncanny ability to tap into invisible dimensions, Moat adeptly conveys this otherworldly presence: one that subtly informs and shapes events, yet one of which, we are at best, only half aware.


August, 1965

Some half an hour before this, the smart set had arrived. They came out of the bar blinking into the sunlight carrying their glasses, and with one of the men, their two bottles of champagne. They collected eight chairs round the table nearest to the bar. And then had their talk and loud laughter and the cheers when the corks were popped, appropriate the entire garden.

Six of them drinking – the three expensively groomed young men and their three girls each variously comme il faut in a range of Mondrian patterns, flared pants and Mary Quant á la mode. But not the seventh, the girl in the blue jeans and blue shirt. She was with them, but also apart, and beside her the eighth, the empty chair.

She had her back to me. But even unable to see her face I was coming to know her – from the way of her loneliness. Could there be anything I didn’t know about loneliness? Perhaps this defiant way of guarding it. I was able though to sense through some shared circuitry, or because my own electronically fragmented senses were worn to the bare coil, how her defiance was threatened, was giving way to anxiety.

The other six at the table noticed she had withdrawn. They tried to jolly her along.

“I say Blah,” it was one of the men, “what do you think could be keeping Rupert?”

She shrugged with one shoulder, didn't look up.

"Maybe the Gaffer's put his foot down."

"Gaffer! What Gaffer?"

"Alright, alright, so sorry. His Grace, the Duke. Didn't you say, Blah, Rupert's gone to put it to the old man? I mean about the wedding and that. See if he can persuade the old boy you're up to the mark, eh?"

This time she did look up. And then away again. Nothing else.

"I'd say Blah would pass for top drawer any day." That was the third young man. When nobody else laughed, he laughed. "Anyway, if Rupert doesn't show up soon he'll have missed his own jolly."

"Talk about being late for one's own funeral."

Something, perhaps time, seemed to stall. It was a moment before she turned and looked at him.

"Why do you say that?" Quiet but fierce, the one time Blanche spoke. "Why would you want to say that?"

He raised his eyebrows: did she really not know that being serious is breaking the code?

One of the other girls tried to patch over the difficulty.

"Well, Rupert will have to jolly well bay some more champers." She waved her empty glass, and giggled at the top of her voice.

Blanche moved suddenly, had turned in her chair. I looked at her face – one thing I've never had to reinvent. Eighteen? Or more? Or less. And what in any event might that add up to? Clearly apart. Certainly no part of their set. Dark short hair, unstyled, and her eyes… dark too, focused for distance. Looking about her as if needing now to know where such a moment could exist, until just the split second when her lips came apart, and her eyes, her entire face and being was alight with what… (and incidentally for just a falter the glance was fixed on Colin whose eyes since the moment she turned were looking unbelievingly at her,) with what or who it was she conceived she had seen, and immediately discounted and so moved on from and become lost to. And then was stock still, violently still, alert, no longer looking… something heard, or heard again, some silence, some cry, some distant gunshot. Or was about to hear.

Ten minutes to two – in the bar the bell rang for last orders. Zed abandoned The House in New Orleans and struck up the final number, It's All Over Now Baby Blue.

"What on earth possessed you to play that one?" Colin asked him later.

"A favour, man. Like you needed assistance, right?"

So he was singing:


"He understands your orphan with a gun

Cryin' like a fire in the sun..."


Blanche had jumped up, had slammed her hands over her ears. And then she was running.

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