Cover image for The seventh moon
The seventh moon
Gabriel, Marius.
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Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
351 pages ; 25 cm
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It is an ancient Chinese belief that in the seventh moon the hungry ghosts of those who have died without proper ceremony come back to haunt the living. In his most mesmerizing novel yet, Marius Gabriel evokes turbulent emotions on every page of this tale of a mother and daughter torn apart by wartime--and of a past never buried. With Japanese planes bombing Singapore early in World War II, Francine Lawrence and her small daughter, Ruth, wait in the fading splendor of Raffles Hotel for Francine's British husband. Together they will flee to England. But when he is delayed, the hotel demands that Francine, half-Chinese and unwelcome there, leave at once. Thus begins a terrifying journey, as Francine seeks to escape a world exploding in nightmare--and ultimately makes a gut-wrenching decision: to entrust Ruth to strangers in order to save the child's life. But when the war ends, all traces of Ruth have vanished; years of searching bring only heartbreak. Three decades later Francine is a formidable businesswoman, pouring all her energies into her companies. Then one day a soft-spoken young woman walks into her New York office on the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. Her name is Sakura, and she hints that she may be Francine's daughter. What Francine does not know is that beneath Sakura's calm surface lives the heart of a warrior. Francine cannot begin to imagine the places Sakura has been, the horrors she has endured--or the secret that gives her the strongest motive in the world to lie. WithThe Seventh Moonreaders will discover why critics have called Marius Gabriel "gripping" (Kirkus Reviews) and "spellbinding" (Booklist). This is the most stunning and emotionally powerful novel yet from a storyteller with a rare talent to enthrall.

Author Notes

Marius Gabriel, author of House of Many Rooms , The Mask of Time , and The Original Sin , is a former Shakespearean scholar who left his academic pursuits to become a full-time writer. Mr. Gabriel is also an artist and a musician. He lives in Spain with his wife and three children.

Visit Marius Gabriel on the Web at

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As World War II shatters her world, Eurasian Francine Lawrence goes to Singapore with her young daughter, Ruth, to wait for her husband so that they can return together to England. Lingering too long to flee ahead of the Japanese invasion, she makes a last-ditch effort to get Ruth to safety by embarking on an ancient junk with Clive, a wealthy young man who is in love with her. The junk is destroyed by Japanese fire, and Clive and Francine drift until making landfall in Borneo, where they are forced to leave Ruth behind. Gabriel then moves forward in time to 1970, when a young Eurasian woman takes extreme measures to make contact with Francine, now a successful international businesswoman long convinced that Ruth is dead. The action in this fast-paced romantic thriller rages across three decades' worth of drama as Gabriel tells the story of two beautiful and resourceful mothers caught up in the maelstrom of war and Southeast Asian intrigue. --Diana Tixier Herald

Publisher's Weekly Review

A suspenseful blend of wartime adventures and history, Gabriel's highly atmospheric, labyrinthine saga of international politics and lost families features a hardy heroine confronted by the daughter she's long believed dead. Now 48, self-made millionaire Francine Lawrence is a survivor of WWII. In flashbacks to 1941, she is a young Eurasian mother whose English husband, the manager of a Malay tin mine, disappears when the Japanese attack. Francine and her four-year-old daughter, Ruth, are installed in a hotel in Singapore, but their precarious situation is exacerbated by racial discrimination. Besieged by Europeans who want rooms, the hotel manager evicts Francine and her child. Francine has no choice but to accept rescue by a persistent suitor, Major Clive Napier. They wangle passage on a dilapidated junk, hoping to get to Java, but after a harrowing voyage (a bombing and a typhoon), they come ashore in Borneo. There, the couple are forced to leave Ruth, who is too sick to travel, with friendly natives. Eventually, after they have made their way to freedom, Francine hears that Ruth was bayoneted by invading Japanese soldiers. More than two decades later, Sakura Ueda walks into Francine's posh Manhattan office, claiming to be her long-lost daughter. At this point the scope of the novel expands, and the plot line shifts to the internecine policies of Laos in the early '70s, involving drug lords, the CIA, the U.S. government and the Pathet Lao. The author burdens Sakura with an impenetrably tangled, tragic history: a childhood in the Bornean jungle and in Tokyo with a Japanese war criminal who later commits seppuku, an adolescence of isolation and poverty and an adulthood marked by gang rape, run-ins with Laotian gangsters, heroin dealing, the kidnapping of her baby and tuberculosis. The narrative is most effective when Gabriel (House of Many Rooms) focuses on Francine and on her skeptical, defensive and complicated feelings toward Sakura, whom she believes is an impostor out for her "mother"'s millions. Though the heroic, violent climax is unnecessarily complicated, Francine's and Sakura's revelatory emotional meltdown is poignant. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this novel, Gabriel (House of Many Rooms) tries unsuccessfully to infuse some imagination into an age-old plot. During the bombing of Singapore by the Japanese, Francine Lawrence, a young Eurasian mother, must leave her daughter behind in order to save both herself and the child. Thirty years later, she encounters a woman claiming to be that long-lost child. The novel spends the next 300 pages in a back-and-forth, yes-she-is, no-she-isn't volley of truths and half-truths. Despite some exotic locales, the daughter, Ruth, a.k.a. Sakura, seems strangely flat and lifeless. There's little real suspense, and it's hard to feel much sympathy for either Francine or her self-proclaimed daughter; each has had her share of romantic entanglements, but these relations seem uninspired and dreary. The novel manages to pull off a somewhat climactic last few pages, but it comes too late. A marginal purchase for larger fiction collections only.ÄMargaret Ann Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Babe in Arms 1941 Ipoh, Malaya Francine looked down into Ruth's face. The child was sleeping peacefully. The morning was sultry, monsoon weather that threatened drenching rain at any moment. Her mother's sisters squatted on the bamboo mat in a circle, all talking at once. Francine was not listening properly because she was focused on Ruth; but one word kept exploding like a gunshot in the talk: Nippon. The Cantonese phrases rose and fell around it like flocks of birds, fluttering up in sudden fright, settling gingerly, fluttering again. Two nights ago, the Japanese had attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, doing extensive damage to the Pacific Fleet. America was now at war with Japan. At the same time, the Japanese had struck much closer: at Kota Bharu, a town on the other side of the Malay Peninsula, a mere 150 miles away. The official British line was that the Japanese had been repulsed. But wild rumors, brought on the monsoon winds, were blowing around the kampong. "Don't worry, Aunt," one of the younger women said, "the English will make sambal out of the Japanese." She mimed the way nonya women pounded chili paste. The others laughed. But Aunt Yin-ho, who was the undisputed matriarch of the clan, cleared her throat and spat out of the door. "England's day is done." "Auntie!" several of the women exclaimed in dismay. They were all peranakan: born in the Straits, educated in English, loyal to the English crown. Yin-ho lifted a finger. "The Japanese are coming, Yu Fa." That was Francine's Chinese name. "They are the new lords of Asia. Tell your husband. You and he should go away. Tell him." Francine nodded. The aunties were all much older than she was. And the details of her birth and marriage (English father, English husband) gave her a low status here, even though she was now mistress of the handsome general manager's bungalow at the Imperial Tin Mine. "Yes, Auntie." Francine came in to Ipoh every week, bringing little Ruth. She left with baskets of fruit and food prepared by the older women. For the past few weeks, she had also been entrusted with dire warnings about the Japanese to carry to Abe. Abe had laughed and asked, what did a load of nonya s know about war and international politics? But Francine had been born in the kampong, and she knew the kampong voices were wise. She touched the face of the child sleeping in her lap. Francine had married Abe at seventeen, and Ruth had been born nine months later. She was just four years old. Ruth was a baptized Methodist. But on all the important occasions of her life, Francine had taken Ruth to the Buddhist temple where the devout burned joss sticks and pasted gold leaf to statues already thick with gold. Abe disapproved of the idea of Ruth being taken into "heathen temples." If, when he took Ruth in his arms when he came home in the evening, he caught a snatch of incense in her dark hair, or found a flake of gold leaf on her little fingertips, he would be angry. The eyelids of the child in her arms fluttered. "Mama?" "Mama's here," she said softly. Ruth was arrestingly beautiful. Her skin was pale gold. Her hair was thick and gleaming brown. She had inherited Francine's oval face and full mouth. Her eyes were almond-shaped and dark-lashed, set over high cheekbones, yet their color was not brown but silver-gray. Even at her tender years, Ruth could pass neither as fully Chinese nor as fully European. Like Francine, Ruth would stand uneasily between two races, despised by the British, only tolerated by the Chinese. She would be enriched by two cultures and yet she would be excluded by both. What hurt Francine most was when the aunts predicted that she was no more than a temporary wife, that one day Abe would marry a European woman and have European children and that they would never see him again. That was what Francine's father had done to her mother. She remembered her father as an affectionate, generous man. Yet when his contract had ended, he had gone back to England, and apart from the twenty Straits dollars a month that always came, they had never seen or heard of him again. Once, when she had asked her mother for the thousandth time where her father was, her mother had banged her fist on the box where she kept the receipts, and had replied bitterly, "He is in here," and Francine had known that the twenty dollars a month was all she would ever know of him from then on. And that was the unspoken theme that underlay almost all the aunts' nagging. Since the death of Francine's mother, they were her moral and spiritual guardians. Though Francine knew there could not possibly be any truth in what they said about Abe, it filled her with terror nonetheless. She heard a car engine and checked the pretty little gold wristwatch, Swiss and expensive, that Abe had bought her when Ruth had been born. It was time to go back. The taxi threaded its way through the trees toward the house. In its wake ran a throng of naked children, to whom a car was still a marvel. The aunts came down the rickety steps to say good-bye, five middle-aged Chinese women in creased pantsuits, puffing on small metal pipes or rolled cigarettes. The chatter did not cease. It was Chin Yin-ho's voice that rose above the others: "Yu Fa, tell your husband to send you away." She pinched Ruth's flushed cheek. "Let him take you and the child to England, to stay with his family." Her lined face took on a hard cast. "But of course, he is too ashamed to show you to them!" For once, either because she was nervous or because she was exasperated, Francine was impatient with an older relative. "Abe isn't ashamed of anything!" Yin-ho sniffed. "Then let him take you. You know what the Japanese do to Chinese women who marry white men?" They crammed the baskets into the taxi and waved from the back window as it drove away. Ruth nestled up against her mother. "Are we going away, Mama?" "Auntie sees bad people behind every bush," Francine said irritably. "Are the Japanese bad people?" "Don't worry, my darling. Mama will look after you. Perhaps we'll all take a holiday in England." Not understanding, the child smiled her beautiful smile. Abe came home early. The food was still on the stove, the table unlaid, the servants chattering. As soon as he got out of the car, and walked up the drive, she knew something was terribly wrong. She knew his face. She hurried to meet him as he came in. "What is it?" she asked urgently. "Bad news, darling," he said, kissing her. Abraham Lawrence was a tall, rangy man in his late thirties. He looked older because his face was weather-beaten. His eyes were a deep blue, the whites slightly yellowed by the chronic malaria from which he, like so many other mining engineers, suffered. Squinting against the sun had etched deep crow's-feet at his temples and had bracketed his wide mouth with two curving lines. "What's the bad news?" she asked in dread. "The Prince of Wales and the Repulse are gone. Sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers." Francine's hand went to her mouth. "It can't be." She felt a sinking in the heart. "It must be Japanese propaganda." "Afraid not. It's been announced on the radio. Turn it on." She obeyed. As the valves warmed up, announcers' voices faded in from the ether, drawling in that strange idiom known as MBC English, after the Malayan Broadcasting Corporation. Her eyes were wide and anxious as she tried to follow the commentary. Ruth was clamoring for her father's attention, calling, "Dadda! Dadda!" Abe picked up the child and hugged her. "Have you come home to play with me, Daddy?" Ruth asked. "That's right, honey," Abe said, kissing her. Francine listened to the handsome teak-boxed radio, stunned. Two great ships, indeed, the whole Royal Navy presence in Malaya, had gone. The news had the impact of a vast natural disaster, a flood, a chasm opening in the earth. Francine could feel the pounding of her heart. "The aunties say the Japanese are coming." "Yes," Abe said, looking at her over Ruth's shoulder. "That much is true. The MBC says they're being driven back into the sea. But I've heard other stories." The voices on the radio, like Abe's, sounded calm, but vibrated with tension. "What stories?" "They've established a beachhead." "What does that mean?" "It means the landing was a success. They're pouring troops into the country." The Malay kitchen staff had stopped clattering around the stove, and were standing in silence. They were listening intently to what the tuan was saying. Becoming aware of this, Abe took Francine's arm and led her away from the kitchen door. "We're going to have to do something, old girl," he said in a low voice. Excerpted from The Seventh Moon by Marius Gabriel All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.