Review: Beyond The Moon (Catherine Taylor)*
“Time seemed to pass differently now. It has ceased to be something that swept them up and bowled them along in its relentless current.”
Catherine Taylor – Beyond The Moon
Beyond The Moon
Author: Catherine Taylor
Genre: Historical romance fiction
Page Count: 483
Published: 26 June 2019
Plot: (8.5 / 10) Characters: (8.0 / 10) Ending: (6.5 / 10)
In 1916, 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett is a patient at Coldbrook Hall military hospital in Sussex, England. A gifted artist, he’s been wounded fighting in the Great War. Shell shocked and suffering from hysterical blindness he can no longer see his own face, let alone paint, and life seems increasingly hopeless. A century later in 2017, medical student Louisa Casson has just lost her beloved grandmother – her only family. Heartbroken, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol on the South Downs cliffs – only to fall accidentally part-way down. Doctors fear she may have attempted suicide, and Louisa finds herself involuntarily admitted to Coldbrook Hall – now a psychiatric hospital, an unfriendly and chaotic place.
Then one day, while secretly exploring the old Victorian hospital’s ruined, abandoned wing, Louisa hears a voice calling for help, and stumbles across a dark, old-fashioned hospital room. Inside, lying on the floor, is a mysterious, sightless young man, who tells her he was hurt at the Battle of the Somme, a WW1 battle a century ago. And that his name is Lieutenant Robert Lovett… Part WW1 historical fiction, part timeslip love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity, feminism and art – Beyond The Moon sweeps the reader on an unforgettable journey through time.
The concept of this book is absolutely fascinating, and I’ve never read anything quite like it. Initially the story switches between the two time periods, and I really liked how Taylor managed to make the transitions feel so seamless. I love reading books about WW1 and I thought Catherine Taylor’s descriptive writing was brilliant. It was clear how much research had gone into the book, and the writing felt raw and honest – the horrors of the war were vividly described, which made for very intense reading.
I loved the character of Robert Lovett, I thought the descriptions of Robert’s paintings were beautiful, I found I was able to visualise them so clearly and it was a really lovely way to get more of an insight into his world.
The book is also meant as a critique of some of the conditions in privately-run mental health hospitals, which I found interesting, though it was very difficult to read at times. The conditions in Coldbrook Hall, where Lousia was a patient, were incredibly grim. I liked the character of Louisa, and I thought Taylor did a great job of making Louisa’s character fit into both 2017 and 1916, though I didn’t warm to her as much as I did with Robert.
My main criticism of the book was the length – there was an awful lot to cover in the story, but I did find myself losing focus as the book went on. I was hoping for a huge reveal on how the time travel worked, as I think that would have been so interesting, though I know it was a concept the reader just has to accept. I think Taylor is a brilliant writer, and has managed to create an extremely original debut novel.
*Beyond The Moon was kindly sent to me by the author for review