I'm delighted to be on the blog tour for Maria in the Moon, by Louise Beech, author of The Mountain in My Shoe. This new novel will be published by Orenda on September 30th, and you can buy it here.
Thank you to the author and publisher for the advanced reading copy. This review is my unbiased opinion.
'Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can't.'
Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can't remember everything. She can't remember her ninth year. She can't remember when her insomnia started. And she can't remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges ... and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide...
I didn't find Catherine an easy character to like at first. She's abrasive, prickly and doesn't make friends easily. As a reader, I felt I, like character in the book, as if I was being held at arm's length. But as I got to know Catherine, the more I began to understand her.
She has an uneasy relationship with her family; her mother and father are both dead and she is left with a step-mother who, Catherine believes, only puts up with her out of a sense of duty to Catherine's late father. Mother's partner, Graham, is lovely, though his daughter is not quite as friendly. The one constant ally in her life is aunt 'Hairy' Mary.
Catherine's house is still being repaired after flood damage and she splits her time between working in a care home and volunteering. She starts volunteering for a flood helpline, and we learn how being a victim of flood damage can have a serious emotional impact on people as well as the loss of home and belongings. As a volunteer, she adopts a different name, and she is also told not to get attached to the callers, but she finds it impossible to disassociate herself from them. Catherine is not good at following rules.
No one can get to know the real Catherine, with her hiding behind these other names. She's not even sure herself who she is, as her memories of the year she turned nine have disappeared. Gradually these memories are coming back to her. She knows she needs to remember, but she is scared too.
I found the pace of the book quite slow, and a little hard to get into to start with, but as I got to know Catherine and her memories started to come back, I became more involved in her journey. It's dark and murky and by half-way, I was utterly submerged.
About the Author
Louise Beech remembers sitting in her father's cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar's chords. He's a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her - such strange language that translated into music. Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise's interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.
She 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.
She 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 Louise's 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 be released in September 2016 and was inspired by her time working with children in the care system.
When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she'd 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.
Link to website - http://louisebeech.co.uk/
Follow Louise on Twitter: @LouiseWriter