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Novel set in Hull (the terrible floods of 2007)

24th September 2017

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech, novel set in Hull, East Yorkshire.

Novel set in HullWe have written before about the excellent writing and story-telling skills that Louise Beech offers her readers, often with quite a personal slant. This one is no exception. Being a Hull resident, she has had first hand insight into the utter devastation caused by the floods of 2007.

Her character Catherine-Maria is a young woman who has seen her fair share of trauma. Her mother died giving birth to her and a while thereafter her father found a new woman, Jean, to share his life, who undermined young Catherine at every turn. By the age of 9, Catherine had also lost her father and it is that vexing year that has simply disappeared from her memory. However hard she tries she cannot remember events, although flashes of memory, including her rabbit Geraldine, flutter and gnaw at the edge of her consciousness. Even family photos don’t really help dislodge the block.

With the floods, now aged 31 years, comes her decision to end her relationship with Will, who soon finds another partner (baby and bath water come to mind). Catherine’s house is in total disrepair with all the water damage and so she has no choice but to rent a one bedroom flat with her friend, Fern. Sleep is a huge problem for Catherine, so making her bed on the sofa is no great hardship, leaving the bed for Fern. With all the upheaval, Catherine is driven once again to sign up for a charity helpline and she chooses Flood Crisis, helping people who have been affected by the flooding…

She has always been perceived as the problem child in her first family – Jean, with whom she continued to stay after the death of her Father, soon hitched up with Colin, bringing daughter Celine into the relationship. It’s the perfect set up to have one “good” daughter and one “bad’, and Catherine plays to the crowd. No-one seems to realise that when a child acts up, that child is trying to vocalise its unhappiness. Jean is certainly welded to her groove of resentful, critical and undermining parenting.

It is in many ways a typical, dysfunctional family that the author brings into sharp focus, it is depressing how each person plays their scripted part. Yet Catherine has a determination that can only draw the reader in. She is driven to help others, in some way she is giving the care and attention to others that she herself has sorely missed (those who have been deprived of unconditional love often turn to a profession that involves helping others). Loving relationships, too, prove elusive, yearning for them on one level, yet feeling hugely uncomfortable with closeness on another. Such deep rooted and conflicting emotions often express themselves physically, and for much of the novel Catherine is tormented by eczema on her hands.

And what’s in a name? Born Catherine-Maria, the lyrical name seems to morph into just Catherine, and at Flood Crisis  she assumes a different name – Katrina (yes, as in the hurricane, she blows like a whirlwind through the office and through her life). The author explores how names given at birth can be fundamental to who we are.

Symbolism permeates the story. Indeed as the story opens a religious figurine, cherished in the family, slides and shatters…and with it life changes. There are a lot of layers that add depth to this well written and well presented story, with an excellent final twist at the end. Throughout Hull is of course the setting and the narrative is imbued with a very Northern and gritty voice.

And I can’t end without praising  the beautiful cover design. Overall, highly recommended.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

You can follow Louise on Twitter and via her website and check out the wonderful piece she wrote for us with her novel How to be Brave in mind.

 

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