The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova: A Novel

Written by Ruth Hogan
Review by Jean Huets

Imelda Burova, a tarot card reader on the Brighton pier, is preparing to retire when her life intersects with that of Billie, a young woman whose career and marriage have simultaneously unraveled. In time increments of “now” and 1973, Hogan links together the secrets the two women hold.

The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova is a “close-up” kind of book. The scenes aim not to immerse us in a past milieu, but to reveal the characters’ emotions and their reactions to each other, with plenty of dialogue and interior monologue.

More “wide shots” of the setting, though, could have strengthened the book’s evocation of the early 1970s. Descriptions of the Brighton pier evoke only glimpses of a general, somewhat idealized carnival ground, and the music and clothes of the time rarely show up. For that matter, the “now” takes place with a scarcity of mobile phones and text messages. The time-split mainly serves the ends of the plot.

Though not ideal as historical fiction, The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova is an enjoyable read. The mix of characters and their often-eccentric ways of facing—or not facing—their problems and secrets carries well through time.