MARIA IN THE MOON
by Louise Beech
(Published by Orenda Books)
Bookshelf – my choice for October
Having read and reviewed 'How to be Brave' and 'The Mountain in my Shoe', I was eager to read Louise Beech's latest novel 'Maria in the Moon'. She has a real talent for exposing the suppressed emotions and internal conflicts of her characters, and then conveying this in a way that is both empathetic and compelling.
With her third novel, 'Maria in the Moon', Louise Beech takes the subject of childhood trauma and weaves a clever and deeply moving story around it. Although the narrative initially appears to be about Catherine's attempts to cope with losing her home in a flood – as well as the turmoil of her inability to form close relationships – it soon becomes apparent there is another, much deeper issue waiting to be resolved.
As a character, Catherine is at first hard to warm to. On the surface, she is aggressive and belligerent with everyone she meets. Despite having a sympathetic ear when talking to callers on the Flood Crisis hotline, her relationship with her family and colleagues is somewhat less than tolerant. In turn, they find her antagonistic attitude difficult to deal with … that is, everyone except her fellow volunteer, Christopher. Having been abandoned by his wife on Christmas Eve, Christopher is dealing with his own demons and recognises a fellow sufferer in Catherine … even though – as with everyone who tries to get close to her – she keeps him at arm's length.
After taking a call from a man calling himself Sid, Catherine starts to experience random flashbacks, setting the wheels in motion for her journey towards self-discovery. However, as she begins to join the dots, an unpleasant truth starts to emerge.
As with Louise Beech's previous novels, 'Maria in the Moon' is set against a real life backdrop – in this case the Hull floods of 2007. This is an effective device for instilling a sense of credibility, and a convincing stage on which to set her wholly believable and intriguing characters. As a reader you cannot help but engage with their story and reflect on how early trauma has a lifelong legacy. Therefore, when Catherine finally manages to break down the wall of silence she encounters from her family, and gradually begins to fill the gaps in her memory, it is difficult not to share the pain she feels at their failure to protect her.
Throughout the novel, both the tension and the drama are sustained right up until the truth is eventually revealed and Catherine finally remembers what happened when she was nine.
If you have already read and enjoyed Louise Beech's previous novels, you will definitely enjoy 'Maria in the Moon'. It is an engrossing and thoroughly enthralling emotional thriller with a powerful and moving ending.
'Maria in the Moon is published by Orenda Books and is available to download in eBook format. Paperback format is available from September 30th. It can be purchased from Amazon, Waterstones, W H Smith, and other leading bookshops.
Louise Beech loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, 'Afloat', was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism. Her debut novel was a Guardian Readers' pick for 2015.
Louise is inspired by life, history, survival and love, and always has a story in her head. Her debut novel, 'How to be Brave', came from truth – when her daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad's real life sea survival story. Her second novel, 'The Mountain in my Shoe', was inspired by her time working with children in the care system.
When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she would be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.