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…
Catherine is a perfectly realised character. She’s not a character that begs you to love her; she’s a character that dares you to love her and by the end of this fabulous novel, I loved her all the more for it. Her life hasn’t been easy and I think that this is one of the reasons that I ended up feeling so drawn into this fabulous novel: despite everything Catherine is a born survivor, even if at times it feels like things are overwhelming and she is struggling to stay afloat.
It was at times a poignant read, to be lost in this book, amidst reports of Hurricane Irma and reports of thousands of people losing their homes. It felt like quite a coincidence too, as I’d just finished Vanessa Lafaye’s wonderful At First Light and I felt like I had water all around me this month…
If you loved Louise Beech’s How To Be Brave as much as I did, then you’re really in for a treat. Maria In The Moon is just as beautifully written and equally emotionally complex which made it a hugely satisfying read for me. Catherine’s hostility and brusqueness is a protective wall to shelter her from the world and her unique sense of dark humour keeps her locked out of her own emotional responses to the world which is exactly how she likes it. She has chosen to bury the fact that her childhood memories are full of gaps and this is the thread that draws us forwards in the book as we begin to see glimpses of what Catherine, or Catherine Maria as she used to be known, is so desperate to forget.
Catherine’s tough outer shell begins to crack when she has to deal with the aftermath of a devastating flood and volunteers to help other victims as a volunteer. Catherine cannot help being drawn into their tragic stories and through this, her own hidden memories of the deaths of her father and beloved Nanny Eve at such a young age begin to rise to the surface. Catherine gradually realises that she can’t run away from her past forever and perhaps the cost of burying these memories is greater than the pain of allowing them to surface and letting her long-buried pain start to heal. Catherine connecting herself to the idea that her father’s coat was like a cape which kept her safe – and the brutal sense of loss that comes when that protective coat is thrown away when he died lends a very nuanced sense of realism to the novel. We all have possessions that connect us to our loved ones and I’m sure that many people will be moved by Catherine’s overwhelming grief here and find connections to their own moments of hopeless loss.
Louise Beech has once again handled difficult emotions with delicacy and insight, rendering Catherine’s journey in vivid detail and exploring her complex relationships in a very credible way. By the end of this novel, I definitely found Catherine’s prickly nature one of the best things about Maria In The Moon as it allows the readers to feel that we are being held at arms’ length as much as everyone else in Catherine’s world. The juxtaposition of this Catherine with the sensitive and supportive woman who ends up dealing with the flood victims is skilfully rendered and makes the story all the more poignant.
If you’re no stranger to my blog, you’ll know that I love novels that have real events at their heart and I did go off and research the Hull floods after finishing this book and I definitely felt myself becoming part of Catherine’s world as I looked at the dreadful footage and wove some of the stories from her volunteering into the sights before me. This seriously is an affecting novel and I defy anyone to read it without feeling moved at Catherine’s situation and drawn into her world inch by inch so that when the book ends, you emerge into reality blinking – not fully believing that you’ve been wrenched out of her world and back into everyday reality.
Louise Beech is a wonderful writer: I also love the genre which is emerging at the moment in the Orenda stable. It’s described online as ‘Dark Drama’ and I’d say that this sums it up perfectly. It’s one of those books that you don’t want to say too much about as you really need to explore Catherine’s journey for yourself to experience the emotional power that Maria In The Moon wields.
I loved it and I can see myself coming back to Maria In The Moon again, just to experience the beauty of Beech’s language, now that I know how it ends and I’m not being distracted by the compelling storyline. I love how it looks in my #OnTheShelfie and I had great fun creating GIFs this weekend to include in my review.
Writer On The Shelf
Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.
Thank you very much to Louise Beech, Orenda Books and especially lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
Follow the rest of the tour…