Macmillan, $9.95 pb, 223 pp
I’ve always had a terror of one day having to explain a joke. And now it’s happened. Moonlite is one of the jokiest books since Such Is Life which in its turn reminds us of the even jokier Tristram Shandy and behind that no less than Rabelais himself. The best way to talk about Moonlite, then, is perhaps to say that it is bouncing, bewildering, wilful and – very occasionally – boring, just as these books are. Foster’s hero, Finbar, is Shandean in his adventures – his father, too, has trouble getting him born – which range from the outermost island of the Hebrides, Hiphoray – ‘to call these islands exposed is an understatement: the winter gales here lift the heather by its roots’ – to the ancient University of Newbridge with its medieval colleges, their stone mostly blackened now, ‘though patches of the original stonework can be seen where a cart has backed into a wall or a passing drunkard kicked it with his foot’; and finally to the New West Highlands where he performs prodigious feats, gold-digging, drinking, fighting, talking, to get his natural reward and become a member of Parliament.