I’ve been reading lots of genre-blending books this year and I’m loving it – there are some really original concepts out there. This novel by Catherine Taylor is possibly the most original by far! It’s a wartime love story set in both WW1 and the present day with two perspectives and a paranormal edge. A bold undertaking, but does it deliver?
***This is a gifted review***
“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.
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. Part war story, part timeslip, part love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art, Beyond The Moon is an intelligent, captivating debut novel, perfect for book clubs.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
How does one begin to review such a combination of concepts so cleverly intertwined? You can’t help but want to know more about a book like Beyond The Moon. It’s a risk in that it combines so many audiences together in the hope that they will all appreciate it, but Catherine Taylor really pulls it off.
Both modern-day psychiatric patient Louisa (in a hospital despite feeling she shouldn’t be there) and past-life WW1 soldier Robert are our protagonists here, as a strange series of events leads to the two of them existing together in the same world. I wasn’t initially captured by Louisa’s story like Robert’s, yet I was completely hooked by the combination of both. I’m not big on paranormal themes within books unless they’re delivered very well, and that is certainly the case here.
Both Louisa and Robert are believable characters and I love how their stories lead into each other. The sets of surrounding of minor characters and environments bring lots of depth to the world. I was captivated by Robert’s wartime experiences – the descriptive richness is hard to stomach but makes it so real. Interestingly I felt I actually learnt quite a bit about World War One through Taylor’s writing. She clearly has extensive knowledge on the topic.
Louisa’s time in the psychiatric hospital of Coldbrook Hall wasn’t so gripping for me. That’s largely because it’s less relevant to the romance-side of the story and I just wanted to get to that part. I appreciated the underlying themes and I felt Louisa’s frustrations as I did the emotions of the other parts of the book, but it is really the writings of the past that make this book stand out. I was hooked by the wartime love story which is the biggest aspect of the book.
Talking of themes, there are several within the novel and I love how they all work together. World War One is of course prevalent, showcasing the trials of the time and the comparison of the modern day. This works well with the theme of mental health, obvious first through Louisa’s struggles at Coldbrook Hall, with a particular focus on the lack of care present in our modern day mental health system (hopefully not all psychiatric hospitals are represented by Coldbrook Hall, but Louisa’s experiences certainly exist in reality). We explore mental health issues within the war, too – something that perhaps the past didn’t deal with correctly. It could end up trivialising our current mental health issue experiences but it doesn’t. Instead, it adds an interesting perspective to the struggles that our ancestors have gone through and the lack of support available for them.
There is also the theme of identity, which the author touches upon through the previous themes and many of the characters. Both Louisa and Robert complete a journey of identity, and we also see loss of identity at Coldbrook Hall and on the frontline. This stuck with me most, and really spoke volumes about the importance of that journey for ourselves.
One final thing I want to touch upon is the cover. The book I have features the left cover shown above. I really like it for it’s artistic and mysterious feel, however I think I actually like the right one more! After reading the book it’s just so fitting of the story – in particular for Louisa.
Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor is another solid recommendation from me, and makes for an excellent wartime love story. Its set apart by its venture into time travel, making it the most original book I have read this year.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor then you can do so here:
“I was born and grew up on the small island of Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands in the English Channel.
I’ve been obsessed with words and books since the day I first learned to read, and grew up on classic children’s authors like Enid Blyton and Edith Nesbit. As I got older I began to gravitate towards love stories with gripping plots, devouring novels like Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Katharine, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice, about clever, independent-minded women caught up in passionate affairs with complex, Byronic men. And equally I loved sweeping epics like The Thorn Birds and Gone With The Wind. I have always been a hopeless romantic, and my favourite novels are beautiful, intelligent love stories that combine a gripping plot with gorgeous prose and wonderful historical detail to lose yourself in.
I now live in London with my husband and children – and two very cheeky and active chinchillas.”
(Taken from author’s website)
Have you ever read any great books that cross genres before? Or do you have a favourite wartime love story? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin! You can read some of my other dual genre reviews here: