Good morning, bookworm, it’s so lovely to see you again. Here, pass me your wet coat and I’ll leave it by the baby dragon nest to dry; it’ll be perfectly safe there as they’re too young to produce flames when they sneeze yet but it’ll be toasty warm by the time you’re ready to put it back on. I feel like we’ve gone back in time to a winter’s day rather than it being May with the chilly weather we’ve had this week. Speaking of going back in time, I’ve just finished the audiobook of Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor and narrated by Liz May Brice, have you heard of it? I’ll fetch you a slice of pound cake and a warm cup of tea to enjoy while I tell you all about it.
Firstly, here’s the blurb: A strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War in 1916 with a young woman living in modern-day England a century later, in this haunting literary time travel novel.
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…
Now, here’s a little about the author: Catherine Taylor was born and grew up on the island of Guernsey in the British Channel Islands. She is a former journalist, most recently for Dow Jones News and The Wall Street Journal in London. Beyond The Moon is her first novel. She lives in Ealing, London with her husband and two children.
Here’s a bit about the narrator too: Liz May Brice is an English actress. She is known for roles such as the convicted murderer Pat Kerrigan on ITV1’s Bad Girls, and Agent Johnson in Torchwood: Children of Earth
And here’s my review: I’m finding it difficult to decide where to begin. And indeed, where to end. You see, I have so many things I want to tell you about this audiobook that there’s every chance we’ll still be here in a week’s time. Decision time: let’s begin with the characters. From the outset, I was drawn to them both. After Louisa’s accident, she is increasingly frustrated and scared as her attempts to explain to medical staff that she isn’t suicidal are ignored as they’ve made up her mind that she’s a danger to herself and needs to be admitted to Coldbrook Hall for assessment. I began my NHS career in a mental health hospital Trust and in one of my roles, I was responsible for visiting patients detained under the Mental Health Act to explain their rights to them. As I listened to the story unfold, I was reminded of my experiences and conversations with patients and I felt that the author had made Louisa’s reactions incredibly lifelike, so much so that I often found myself suspending disbelief and having to remind myself that it was a novel.
I think I fell a little bit in love with Lieutenant Robert Lovett, whose quiet authority and compassion existed with his fierce determination and courage. From his empathy with his friend, a conscientious objector to the war, despite fighting on the front himself, to his care for the men he led, there wasn’t a part of him I didn’t like. I wasn’t sure how I would feel when the two protagonists met and whether this would break the spell the author had cast on me, but the way they slipped into each other’s time worked perfectly in my opinion.
The book switches between Robert’s wartime life and Louisa’s modern day existence, peppered with her meetings with Robert when the abandoned wing of Coldbrook Hall slips to its former glory before something breaks the link and she’s once more surrounded by dilapidation and rot. I can only imagine how much research the author undertook to make her scene setting of life in the trenches, in wartime London and later, in the military field hospital so rich and historically accurate.
Not since I read Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong in the nineties have I been so completed immersed by the breathtaking attention to detail of the terrors experienced by men who lived and died for our freedom. That book has stayed with me for over twenty years and I truly believe that Beyond The Moon will still be with me in twenty years too.
I have a lump in my throat as I recall listening to the scenes of men dying in battle and also in the military hospital, especially the care and respect the VAD nurses gave to enemy soldiers who were ultimately men who happened to be in a different uniform. Although I think I would have enjoyed reading this book, listening to the audiobook version gave me a real sense of actually being there, watching a young, inexperienced nurse try to cope with the demands of her role and the gut-wrenching horrors of the injuries of the men in her care.
So let’s take some time to discuss the narrator, Liz May Brice. There was no need at all for any sound effects to accompany her as her voice provided everything that was needed. Flipping between modern day and cut-glass wartime British accents with ease, I was never in any doubt as to which character was speaking. Her voice conveyed the emotions involved as Louisa and Robert begin to fall in love and their lives become intertwined in ways they could never have anticipated. During her narration, there were times when I had to pause what I was doing to whisper “no, no, no” during tense scenes, such was the urgency and fear she emoted.
I don’t want to say too much more because there’s a risk of spoilers and I urge anyone who enjoys historical fiction to try this audiobook. For some, the time travel aspect may sound a little off-genre but in my opinion it absolutely works to bring an additional depth to this beautiful, haunting story. And if you haven’t tried audiobooks before, this is the ideal one to begin with. Although, I must warn you that it’s of such high quality that you may find others pale in comparison afterwards.
What else can I give this audiobook but a shining, five star rating? If you like the sound of this and want to purchase a copy for yourself (or use an Audible credit on it for those who have a subscription like me), just click on the book image above to go to the relevant page. I’m deeply grateful to the author, publisher and Rachel’s Random Resources for sending me the audiobook in return for my honest opinion. There’s also a giveaway if you’re interested and you can find the details at the end of this post.
Well, bookworm, it’s time I tended to my chores. You’re welcome to stay a while and play with the baby dragons now they’re waking up if you like, just watch out for them coughing as they can singe your fingers. Until next time, bookworm, farewell!
International giveaway to win a Beyond The Moon audiobook
To be in with a chance to win a copy of this stunning audiobook, please click on the following link – https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494420/
It’s distributed via Authors Direct so it’s worth checking whether the website operates where you are. I’m not affiliated with this giveaway but I enjoyed the audiobook so much that I wish you good luck if you enter!
*Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.