‘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.‘
– Beyond the Moon
Today I am delighted to welcome Catherine Taylor with an extract from her debut novel Beyond the Moon. Published June 26th 2019, it is described as ‘part WW1 historical fiction, part timeslip love story and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art’
[ About the Book ]
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.
Part WW1 historical fiction, part timeslip love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art – Beyond The Moon sweeps the reader on an unforgettable journey through time. An intelligent read, perfect for book clubs.
For fans of Diana Gabaldon, Amy Harmon, Beatriz Williams, Kate Quinn, Kristin Hannah, Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Paullina Simons.
High Wood, mid-July 1916
It was beautiful; so unexpectedly and profoundly perfect that he felt his heart might break. Robert looked out over the cornfield at High Wood, tears spilling down his cheeks, surprised he still had the ability to cry. Perhaps there was something in him that was still human after all. A little way behind stood Private Nesbitt, his signaller. The two of them had come out in advance to assess the lie of the land.
The breeze brushed softly through the ripening ears of corn, as if for the simple pleasure of feeling them part. And the corn, in turn, seemed to shiver with pleasure at its touch. There was scarcely a shell hole to be seen. Nearby, a song thrush spilled its joyous tune. It was warm, the sky mostly overcast, but every now and then a shaft of sunlight broke through and gilded the landscape and heated the back of his neck. Only the distant boom of the guns gave away the fact they were still at the front.
He closed his eyes, drank in the silence. He could almost be back at home in the fields of his boyhood, tramping through the thigh-high buttercups with a jam jar, catching beetles and pretending not to hear Cook at the bottom of the garden calling him back in for lunch. He could scarcely believe he’d ever been that boy. That time increasingly seemed like a fantasy dreamt up by someone else.
It was just two weeks since the great offensive had kicked off, but he felt he’d aged a lifetime. His battalion had been sent further down the line, south of the Albert to Bapaume road, where the attack had been a bit more successful on the first of July. There, the British had not only taken a little ground but held it – albeit at great cost. Now Sir Douglas Haig wanted to exploit the gains. Things had gone well so far that morning. Instead of a long preliminary bombardment proclaiming loudly to all and sundry the fact that the British were coming, there’d been a short, lightning bombardment. Under cover of darkness, they’d been able to take the Germans by surprise and turf them out of three miles of their own second line. Luck had, for once, been on their side. Now they must press their advantage and advance further. There were no two ways about it. This time they simply had to succeed.
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.
She has wanted to be an author since she was a child, and has been obsessed with the First World War ever since she first read Wilfred Owen’s poem Strange Meeting in junior school.
Beyond The Moon is her first novel.
She lives in Ealing, London with her husband and two children.
Twitter – @CathTaylorNovel