I’m back from the trip with an ARC Review for you guys! There will be one more tomorrow before I dig into my UK book impressions post 😅
Endless thanks to my partner Celadon Books for the early print copy of Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash! The packaging and recipe card put me in the mood for this WWII read and the book definitely kept me entertained while travelling. I’ll try to bake the muffins this week and update with how that goes!
I just love this package! Let’s take a look at the book really quick and then my thoughts on it
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Beyond That, the Sea
- Series: N/A
- Author: Laura Spence-Ash
- Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 03/21/2023
- Length: 368 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of character stories in wartime settings
Here’s the synopsis:
A sweeping, tenderhearted love story, Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash tells the story of two families living through World War II on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and the shy, irresistible young woman who will call them both her own.
As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she’ll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she’ll stay safe.
Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England.
As Bea comes into herself and relaxes into her new life—summers on the coast in Maine, new friends clamoring to hear about life across the sea—the girl she had been begins to fade away, until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends.
Desperate as she is not to leave this life behind, Bea dutifully retraces her trip across the Atlantic back to her new, old world. As she returns to post-war London, the memory of her American family stays with her, never fully letting her go, and always pulling on her heart as she tries to move on and pursue love and a life of her own.
As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love
Celadon tends to publish books that are more literary and atmospheric. Overall I enjoyed the story quite a bit, plus the brief chapters and multiple points of view kept the story rolling along without dragging or becoming boring.
My main issue was that there are sooo many points of view and I never settled into the flow. While it was nice to see the perspectives and opinions of all the different family members and people involved in the story, writing them in the same perspective made it a bit hard to differentiate the voices and tenses at times. Keeping the people and ancillary characters straight in my head was hard for the first chunk of the book, and ultimately I wish there had been fewer voices.
One wonderfully helpful aspect was the timeline at the bottom of the pages. I always knew what year we were in and how much time was passing, so I hope this makes it into the final edition.
I also liked the character and family arcs, but wanted more historical info alongside them. I didn’t know that there was a foreign exchange type program for kids whose parents wanted to send them away from the war. I would have liked to know more about it, like how the families and kids were paired up, how many kids went, etc. I think the book was more character story fictional than historical fiction in the sense of, there weren’t a lot of facts given throughout the story as events were happening and mostly glossed over.
I did like the story though and think that most people can relate to being torn between multiple lives, places, and people. Watching Bea and the boys and the families bloom was a treat. Then there was the reconciliation as they fell apart and found each other again … Yeah, that. That’s how you do family stories. The author excels at bringing all the feels into the pages.
There was a good mix of happy & hopeful mixed with tragedy & despair for a wartime story. I would have liked more history related to the exchange program and other lesser explored parts of the book. I also think fewer contributing voices would have streamlined the story a bit more. Due to the reading speed, I think this will be a good book for those looking for a character driven family story this summer and I mostly enjoyed my time spent in the pages!
Thanks for checking out my early book review of Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash! I received an early copy from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review, and all opinions are my own!