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The Moor Is Dark Beneath the Moon

by David Watmough

The death of an elderly aunt sends Davey Bryant to England where he visits the haunts of his Cornish childhood. Bryant is dismayed by the commercial changes that are transforming the landscape of the moors that he’s held in his memory while living on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast for nearly 40 years. With the death of his last remaining connection to Cornwall, Davey finds himself mourning not only Aunt Hannah but his own past. Joined by his cousin Alyson, her two children, and his beloved partner Ken, Davey eventually overcomes his displacement from the world of his childhood and discovers an interesting piece of gay family history to boot.

Since Davey’s first appearance in a short story in Ashes for Easter, published in 1972, Watmough has traced Davey’s history over the course of 11 books in a unique cycle of gay-themed Canadian fiction. In this, his 12th book, Watmough neatly explores the relationship between memories of childhood with the lives that grow out of those memories. As the novel makes clear, Bryant’s connections to Cornwall have become ever more tenuous, though he’s held tight to the idea that he’s a Cornishman who has spent his life in Canada rather than a Canadian with Cornish roots.

But the issue goes even deeper. Davey discovers that it’s possible that his Aunt Nora, the spinster sister-in-law with whom Aunt Hannah lived for decades, was herself a lesbian who had expressed her love and been scorned. Watmough gently suggests that sexual orientation may be genetically passed from one generation to another; Alyson’s son, Quentin, comes out to Davey late in the novel, adding a new link to the family chain.

Watmough has suggested that this is the last book in an extensive cycle that has been as much a chronicle of gay social history as an in-depth exploration of one man’s life. It certainly lives up to its predecessors.