Okay, technically I haven’t just read this book, I read it over a month ago, but have been somewhat tardy in posting this review. But it’s here now.
Popular writing advice says never start a book with a prologue. Melissa Bailey ignores that advice with Beyond the Sea, and that decision works fantastically well, as it sets up perfectly the mystery underlying the rest of the book.
Freya’s husband, Jack, and son, Sam, are lost at sea, and one year on, Freya returns to the remote Hebridean lighthouse keeper’s cottage she shared with them. Struggling to cope with her loss and the haunting dreams that invade her sleep, things turn a shade sinister when a stranger is washed ashore during a storm.
Let’s start off by saying this is not the normal sort of book I’d buy (and I didn’t buy this one, it was kindly sent to me by Melissa and her publishers). The cover marks it as woman’s fiction to me, and with my TBR pile so large, it’s not a genre I’d usually go for. Now with that out of the way, let’s get down to what I actually thought about it. Well, that’s easy: I loved it!
Beyond the Sea is beautifully written, with atmosphere oozing from every page. We see Freya finding her son’s diary and deciding to retrace his and Jack’s final voyages around the local Hebridean islands. I don’t want to give too much away about the story, so I am keeping this quite brief, but I did love the way the threads of this tale intermingle. We have Freya, desperate to know what happened to Jack and Sam; Daniel, a mysterious and sinister stranger who’s washed ashore and who is dealing with his own grief; and through some letters, we follow a story of Edward, a soldier from the 1600s, who’s left his wife far behind as he’s sent to Scotland on a seemingly doomed mission.
As I said, I don’t want to give the story away, but following Freya’s journey through grief and intrigue is magical. And I say magical knowing there’s a hint of mythology throughout the story.
I enjoyed this book hugely; it’s an incredibly well-written and satisfying story, and I can’t recommend it enough.