As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys, who fold her seamlessly into their world. Before she realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than life with her parents back in England – until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends.
Beyond That, the Sea explores the ways that formative experiences remain with us throughout our lives ... masterful character development enlivens the Thompson and Gregory families and all of the love and tension between them.
Spence-Ash explores complex family dynamics without villains. Readers will feel the pull of new fictional friends from the first to the last page, and long afterward. Details of daily life build a strong sense of time and place in both countries and time frames further deepening this outstanding debut novelist’s portrayal of her characters.
The author’s choice to highlight an obscure corner of history with the overseas program adds a note of poignancy to Bea’s story, as her voyage took place shortly before two other ships were sunk by the Germans. As well, Spence-Ash generates a stronger emotional charge with her contrasting portrayals of the two families, whose cultural and economic differences make it difficult for Bea to find her own way. Readers will be riveted.