‘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…
There’s a lump in my throat and the remains of tears in my eyes as I write this review. That’s testament to the beauty of Louise Beech’s exquisite writing. Like a watercolour painter, her brushstrokes are soft and gentle, her colours strong but subtly blended together to create a work of art that speaks to the heart and ultimately nourishes the soul.
Catherine Maria Hope is a woman with many aspects to her personality. She is difficult, spiky and somewhat foul- mouthed Catherine to her mother. She is a bitchy Catherine to her step-sister, Celine, whom she refers to as ‘Sharleen’ just to wind her up.
To her ex-boyfriend Will, she is the woman he met whilst both were volunteering at the local Crisis Care Centre. In between suicidal and desperate calls they would have sex on the chairs while they waited for the next call to come in. But Catherine did not love Will; she just needed to be needed and to be loved.
When we meet her, she is just about to join the Flood Crisis help line after a period away from volunteering. Flooded out of her own home, Catherine is now renting a grotty flat with her friend Fern, to whom she is both friend and confidante. At Flood Crisis she will be known as Katrina, to distinguish her from another volunteer of the same name.
Catherine can’t remember why the Maria was dropped from her name, or when. Her dad, long deceased when she was 8, used to call her Maria in the Moon. Somewhere along the way, Maria got lost along with any memory of her ninth year, and she has never managed to find her again.
Catherine suffers from eczema and sleeplessness – when she does sleep she has nightmares. She uses sarcasm and edgy humour to keep those who should be closest to her at a distance. It is clear that Catherine is fractured, perhaps even irretrievably broken, but when we listen to her on the Flood Crisis lines we understand that here is a woman capable of enormous empathy and caring.
Maria in the Moon is the story of how Catherine Maria Hope starts to remember her painful past; the people she connects with along that journey and the hurt she and others experience until she can finally understand both what happened to her and why her memories are so difficult .
There’s a searing truthfulness to this book that can’t help but move you but it is also full of dark humour and warmth as we experience Catherine’s search for her lost ninth year.
A difficult and sometimes heart-rending read, Maria in the Moon is the story of one woman’s personal journey of discovery and how the actions of one can impact and resonate on many for years to come. A story of love and of loathing, of forgiveness and redemption it is sometimes hard to read, but it is so, so worth it.
Maria in the Moon was published by Orenda Books in e-book on 15th August 2017 and in paperback on 30th September 2017
About Louise Beech
Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.
She remembers sitting as a child in her father’s cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar’s chords. He’s a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her – such strange language that translated into music.
Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise’s interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic. She’s inspired by life, history, survival and love, and always has a story in her head.
She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.
Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.
Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.