Maria in the Moon was published on 15 August 2017 by Orenda Books and is available to buy here
Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’ Thirty-two-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 devastating 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…
Also by Louise Beech
Maria in the Moon is the latest novel from Louise Beech.
The story takes us back to 2007 and Hull. As most of us will remember, Hull was in the news. It became the forgotten place for widespread flooding. Louise Beech uses this as a backdrop to her story. Catherine works as a care assistant, although we never see her in this role. Her home is flooded out. This prompts her to seek voluntary work, on a helpline specifically set up to help local flood victims. Catherine becomes embroiled in the culture of the helpline and its staff. At the same time, we get to know Catherine and see that she has a memory gap. Catherine cannot remember much about life around the time that she was nine years old. What is the cause of this amnesia?
It is hard to know, where to start with The Man in the Moon. I felt that the portrayal of the helpline and the working practices in the office were brilliant. Anyone who has worked in a voluntary capacity, in this kind of work will recognise it instantly. The office banter and Catherine’s real life cases were very well done. These are people in crisis, suffering from loneliness or just bizarre individuals.
My main issue was that little happened over the course of the book. Very early on, I guessed what had taken place with Catherine as a child. There were many indicators pointing to the truth. I suspect that I won’t be the only one to read between the lines, with Catherine’s sudden bad behaviour as a child. Too much of the book simply consisted of speech between characters I wasn’t that bothered about. I thought the strongest characters were Catherine, her mother and the office staff at the charity. I wanted to hear more from them. The rest of the characters seemed like fillers and they added nothing to the drama. The whole pace of the book was low key, lacking tension and suspense. There was not very much to keep me reading, apart from mild curiosity. It was a massive relief, when we finally got to the truth. By then, I had totally switched off.
I would recommend this book to readers looking for women’s fiction. It definitely does not work as any kind of crime novel. I was very disappointed in Maria in the Moon. It could have been so much better, with an injection of tension or fear.