Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 18 minutes
First Published: 2023
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Celadon Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In 1940, Millie and Reginald Thompson make the heartbreaking decision to send their eleven-year-old daughter Beatrix to America to escape the dangers in London. For the next five years, Bea finds herself enveloped into the Gregory family, sandwiched between sons William and Gerald. Although Bea has made a life for herself in America, she is forced to leave her new family behind to return to England after the war, finding herself caught between two worlds.
Told in short vignettes from different point-of-views, Beyond That, the Sea is a bittersweet character-driven story about being caught between two worlds. And by short vignettes, I mean very short vignettes; most chapters are only a page or two. I absolutely adored this enveloping story. The story spends much of its time on the war years, developing the relationships between all the characters. Then the narrative jumps forward twice more to reflect on the evolution of their relationships in a slow, thoughtful way.
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.
About Laura Spence-Ash
Laura Spence-Ash is the author of Beyond That, the Sea. She currently lives in New Jersey. Visit the author’s website →