"Beyond That The Sea" | Reviewed by Susan Ferguson
“Beyond That the Sea,” by Laura Spence-Ash, is a historical fiction novel told in three parts. It begins in 1940 then advances into 1965 and 1977. This is a character driven story narrated by six characters. You get to thoroughly know each of the characters as they offer their points of view in numerous short chapters, making this novel a quick read.
The story begins in 1940 when 11-year-old Beatrix (Bea) is sent to America by her parents to ensure her safety as German bombs fall on London.
Bea arrives in Boston alone, scared and angry. She is taken in by the Ethan and Nancy Gregory who have two sons, Willian and Gerald. Bea quickly becomes part of the family, spending her summers in the Gregory’s summer home in Maine. After having lived with the Gregorys for five years, America feels more like home than London. The war ends and Bea is called home to London. Bea learns to adjust to her life in London after her father’s death and her mother’s second marriage.
The story then shifts to 1965 and we learn about Bea, William and Gerald’s lives after Bea’s return to London. Bea and William have feelings for each other long after childhood, but time and distance don’t allow their relationship to grow. Gerald remains in the background, always having loved Bea as well.
William is married with two children and working at a bank. Bea is in charge of a daycare center having worked her way up. She has had boyfriends, but none that she can commit to. Gerald moves back to Boston to care for his widowed mother and is a teacher at the same school his father and grandfather taught at. He has a girlfriend that he can’t fully commit to. William never seems to find true happiness, Gerald always seems to settle for less, and Bea loves her job but isn’t fulfilled.
The story ends with an epilogue set in 1977. The epilogue provides a conclusion to all of characters’ lives, and in a satisfying way, it works. “Beyond That the Sea,” is more about the characters than it is about the events of World War II. It is a story of love, heartache, loss and forgiveness.