I’ve reviewed many World War II novels, most featuring women as the protagonists. Most are epic tales of courage, or smaller stories featuring triumph against great adversity. (World War II makes an excellent backdrop for those.) Beyond That, the Sea is the first I’ve read on such a small scale.
It’s also the first I’ve read that made me cry.
The book tells the story of Beatrix Thompson, an adolescent sent from London to Boston to keep her safe from the Blitz. The book is beautifully written, exploring the minds of both her old and new family, in addition to Bea herself. Rather than focusing on the battles or the great human struggle of the war, Spence-Ash narrows her attention to one girl and the storylines that surround her. It brings home Bea’s heartbreak, loss, and growth in a way a more expansive, more universal story might not.
Beyond That, the Sea captures only a small part of World War II. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who wanted to understand the war as a whole. I would, however, highly recommend it on its own merits as a novel.