Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor
Publication Date: January 2020
Publisher: The Cameo Press Ltd
Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance / Time Travel
Outlander meets Birdsong is this haunting debut timeslip novel, where a strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War and a young woman living in modern-day England a century later.
*Shortlisted for the Eharmony/Orion Write Your Own Love Story Prize 2018/19
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…
Two people, two battles: one against the invading Germans on the battlefields of 1916 France, the other against a substandard, uncaring mental health facility in modern-day England. Two journeys begun a century apart, but somehow destined to coincide – and become one desperate struggle to be together.
Beyond The Moon was captivating historical romance set in dual timeline that revolved around grief stricken medical student Louisa Casson and WWI soldier and artist Robert Lovett. It was about horrors of WWI, war and its impact on soldiers, how war changed people and how it affected their life and mental status, inhumane treatment towards patients in private psychiatric institute, grief, loss and love.
Writing was flawless, lyrical, and descriptive. I enjoyed description of Coldbrook Hall, psychiatry ward, both modern and WWI era, battles and life of soldiers and VAD nurses. It was wonderfully narrated in Louisa and Robert’s voice that gave life to story.
As synopsis said book started with Louisa’s stupid mistake of falling over cliff that was seen as suicide attempt and was admitted to ColdBrook hall Psychiatry ward without her will. We don’t see many hope for her coming out anytime soon. (As I discussed with Virginia the way people were treated at this psychiatry institute and the way staff behaved- both nurses and doctors- it didn’t look like all that behavior and treatment can happen in modern time (2017). It felt more like institute from 40s or 60s.) So good thing happened to Louisa after coming here was her time slip back in 1916 and met Robert who was recovering hysterical blindness. Was Louisa really not right in mind, why she time slipped and met Robert, what was connecting her to this era and why she was wearing Rose Ashby’s clothes whenever she went back in time, what was her connection to Rose? It was interesting to get answers to all this questions.
All characters we well written. Their emotions, thoughts and life was portrayed wonderfully. Both Louisa and Robert were developed, were going through a lot in different time period. Common thing was- that formed a connection- they both were broken and lost soul.
Louisa was emotionally disturbed because of her grandmother’s death and her involuntary admission in psychiatric hospital. Careless and compassionless staff and doctors weren’t ready to even consider her perspective or listen to her plea. She was good person and made friends and won heart of few patients at Coldbrook who taught her rules to survive this heartless place. Her dilemma on meeting Robert and time slip, feeling of hopelessness and loneliness was narrated realistically. I agreed with Louisa, it didn’t make sense. Her emotions and love for Robert was classic. I loved reading her feelings and view point. Her friendship with secondary character both in 2017 and 1917 and her will and determinations to help her friends, Robert, and others amazing.
All chapters narrated in her voice told about her life and family, life at hospital and connection to WWI era and what she time slipped back in 1917. What I love most about her narration was stark difference of two era, lifestyle, language and people and above all the comfort of modern times and her struggle in history without the advancement of present times.
Robert was great throughout the book. War changed him a lot. It did damage but also taught him compassion and understand grief and loss. He respected those who wanted to preserve their sanity by not involving in war and I agreed his view on conscientious objectors. War seeped so deep in his mind and soul that he couldn’t cope with normality, his blindness, and not being at war leading his men at front. His hopelessness, tragedy he saw, guilt he felt for killing men, losing his own men and then losing eyesight was sad and heartfelt. His reaction on finding out Louisa’s secret was natural. I would have thought the same if I was at his place. I don’t judge him for what he did. But life after the heartbreak for him was horrible.
As character I loved Louisa but when it comes to narration, Robert’s POV on WWI, politics, soldiers and their condition on both British and German side, state of land and villages, nature and prisoners was brilliant, poetic and deep. Author got into his artistic side so well. It was all so lifelike, poignant and horror filled yet there was beauty in words.
Romance was classic. Both Louisa and Robert felt connection from the very beginning, couldn’t help but wait to meet each other next time and as they knew more about each other they found themselves falling in love so deep that centaury long gap couldn’t stop their love. It added a good deal mystery and curiosity. I kept reading to see if they will meet again and how. I feel their time apart in second part was really long but even in their separate chapters their love was in center of all.
Second half of the book was best. I loved reading life of VAD nurses and what it was like in medical camp during WWI. I could guess mystery behind the time slip but the way it was explained, Louisa’s conversation about it and trying to understand logic and purpose behind it was best. Climax was tense. Louisa’ hopelessness and frustration was palpable. I felt she couldn’t find her way back but then that sudden chance, it felt both dramatic and knife-edged. End was good, I was dreading the worst but it was filled with happiness and hope.
Why 4.5 stars-
I’m still skeptical about what happened from climax to end. I know whole time slip thing was implausible and I was prepared for it but that decision of Louisa just after that incident at hospital and time slip and at the end was unbelievable. But I’m rounding it to 5 star because I loved writing and plot.
Overall, it was intriguing, poignant historical romance with wonderful writing and concept. I highly recommend this book to fans of time travel and historical fiction.
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