Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech  (Orenda Books)

Last year, I was introduced to Louise Beech’s writing with the stunning How To Be Brave. The Mountain In My Shoe was a superb follow-up and I have been eagerly awaiting my chance to read the next Louise Beech masterpiece, Maria In The Moon. Apart from being one of the loveliest ladies I have ever had the pleasure to meet, she is a beautiful writer who grabs her readers by the heartstrings and moves them to tears, yet somehow manages to uplift them at the same time through the sheer grunt and determination of her characters. So when I say that Maria In The Moon has been the one book I have been waiting to read all year, you can take that to the Bank.

Maria In The Moon is set in Hull in the aftermath of the terrible floods from a few years back. Catherine has been forced out of her home whilst repairs are taking place for the flood damage and she is living above a Chinese takeaway with her best friend, Fern. Catherine decides to take a volunteer job at a flood crisis helpline, for reasons she can’t quite grasp onto, having had experience working with crisis helplines before that left her with terrible nightmares. When a chance question in her induction encourages her to remember memories from when she was nine years old, she is confused as to why she cannot remember anything from her ninth year, only the years before and after. As Catherine tries to uncover the mystery of what happened in her missing year, she finds herself considering the people in her life and how they have influenced her, and the choices she has made. As memories return and she is forced to confront her demons, Catherine’s life is turned upside down.

As mentioned previously, Beech is particularly good at writing feisty main characters, from Rose in How To Be Brave, to Conor and Bernadette in The Mountain In My Shoe. Catherine is equally, if not more, feisty and even at the times when she seems a little abrupt and aloof, the reader feels a sympathy with her before they even realise why. Beech is able to instill a depth to Catherine that transcends her smart mouth and shows a sense of vulnerability that instantly warms the reader to her and invests them into wanting to know her story.

In the backdrop of flood-damaged Hull, Beech speaks from the heart, having been a victim of the floods herself, and reminds the reader of the impact it had on the residents of those people whose properties were damaged, from an emotional, financial and practical point of view. Catherine is depicted as being quite pragmatic a lot of the time, but there is an undercurrent of frustration and sadness which adds another layer of intrigue to Catherine.

Beech’s narratives are funny, poignant completely gripping. It never takes me long to finish her novels as, quite frankly, I can’t put them down. They are also easily readable multiple times. To me, if a novel can make you laugh, cry and want to read it all over again, it is a perfect reading experience. This is what you get with a Louise Beech novel each and every time. There’s enough mystery within the plot to drive the narrative forward and to keep the reader guessing but it is the characters themselves who generate the desire within the reader to learn more, right from the first page.

Louise Beech has yet again written a completely satisfying read. I have yet to I find a single, even tiny, flaw with her novels; no sense that it could have been improved in any way. Of course, it’s an Orenda Books novel and this is a commonality amongst the books published by Orenda, but three novels in and I continue to be blown away by Beech’s writing. I hope to meet Louise again soon at another book signing so I can tell her face to face how much I enjoyed Maria In The Moon but in the meantime, I will be recommending this book to whoever I can. Having already purchased it for my friend’s birthday, I’m looking forward to hearing about how she loved it, as I am sure she, and anyone else who reads it, will. I look forward to the next Louise Beech perfect read.