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.
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…
*NB Contains graphic descriptions of war violence and injuries, as well as profanity and mild sex.
Content warning: mental illness, graphic war scenes
I don’t have the emotional fortitude to read books set during war time regularly but I couldn’t bring myself to turn down a review copy of this audiobook – a hauntingly moving love story paired up with narration by one of my all time favourite actresses.
Liz May Brice’s voice is perfectly suited to this book, she seamlessly flips between male and female characters as well as POVs, and held my attention right to the end. This is one of those stories that is made even better by an audio performance.
Louisa lives in 2017 and is sectioned following a suspected suicide attempt, she’s moved to an underfunded and uninterested psychiatric hospital where all of her (and my) nightmares come to pass, being made powerless and having all of her choices taken away from her.
During an exploration of the abandoned parts of the hospital, she travels through time and finds herself in 1917, at the bedside of a handsome but shell-shocked Robert Lovett. They instantly form a deep connection, they both understand what it is to not have control over their lives and to want something more.
Time travel is always a dodgy concept for me, I tend to avoid it because I’m nerdy enough that I need it to make logical sense to me but lazy enough that I don’t want to get a PhD in transtemporal travel. This book hit the sweet spot, there’s no science to it but it makes enough logical sense to satisfy the reader.
Lousia and Robert are brilliant characters, they’re both exceptional in their fields and dedicated to what they do, which means that they’re not defined by their love story. However, their fields both involve lots of violence, loss and dismemberment, which is definitely not going to be suitable for all readers.
They face their individual battles, which are suspenseful and unpredictable, until I was desperate for their happily ever to hurry up before my heart broke for them.
If you dig historical fiction, romance and/or having your still beating heart ripped out and served to you on fine china, this is the book for you.