Beyond The Moon: A Haunting Debut Novel Of Time Travel And WW1

Written by Catherine Taylor
Review by Sally Zigmond

This is a poignant love story which is both a time-traveling novel and a study of mental disorders in the early 20th century and now.

In 2017, medical student Louisa Casson, heartbroken over the loss of her beloved grandmother, drowns her sorrows in alcohol and accidentally falls over the South Downs cliffs. Doctors diagnose attempted suicide, and she is sent to Coldbrook Hall, a badly run psychiatric hospital. One day, while exploring the hospital’s soon-to-be demolished Victorian wing, Louisa hears a voice calling for help and enters an old-fashioned hospital room. There she meets a blind young man who tells her he was wounded at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He is 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett: a gifted artist suffering from hysterical blindness, he is in despair. He sees Louisa as a ghost, and none of the other patients can see her.

Louisa visits Robert at every opportunity and eventually appears to him not as a ghost but as Rose Ashby, who worked on the Western Front as a VAD. Her two identities and the two worlds coalesce, and Louisa becomes Rose, tending to the injured soldiers with all the primitive medical equipment of the period whilst also understanding modern medicine. She and Robert fall in love while his sight recovers.

The end leaves a mystery—who had the breakdown, Louise or Rose?—but it hardly matters. The characterization is spot-on, as is the historical time-line. Beyond the Moon is not only a page-turner but an intelligent appraisal of medicine, psychology and mental illness over the years. Historical fantasy at its very best.