*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Light Between Worlds
Author: Laura E. Weymouth
Publication Date: October 23, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge. When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.
With a very C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia kind of vibe, Weymouth writes a fantastical tale across worlds. Three siblings–Evelyn, Philippa, and Jamie–find escape from their war torn world when they are transported into a world that is so very different, yet similar to their own. This world immediately speaks to Evelyn in a way her own world never has. This peaceful and beautiful realm is facing its demise at the threat of another group of world-walkers, the Tarsin army. The Hapwell trio must make a decision to help this world or join the Empire. Their hearts are pure and they choose to fight for what is good and right in this mystical place.
Time moves differently in this world. Although their lives span years and they grow up, in their own world, if they choose to return to it, they will return to the exact moment from which they came. Thrust back to their WWII reality, they have become adults trapped in children’s bodies, forced to live in a society that now knows nothing of what they’ve lived or where they’ve come from. The Hapwells must find their own way in the place to which they were born.
Although much goes on in the world around the Hapwells, this book is really about their relationships with themselves and with each other. This coming of age story deals with adolescence, death, war, loss, mental illness, depression, self-harm, first love, and family. It is so much to pack into what is not a very long book, but Weymouth is an excellent writer and she brings her characters to life through these pages. Evelyn’s struggle with depression and self-harm is absolutely heartbreaking. She lives in a state where happiness no longer exists for her. Her world is torn upside-down with seemingly no escape. Her siblings and all those around her are at an absolute loss as to how to help her. All anyone wants, including the reader, is to see her find happiness. Although the era in which this book is set has no word for depression, Weymouth intimately explores this very real and incredibly isolating struggle in depth. This family’s experience is made all the more difficult to swallow because of the truth of knowing that they are mentally so much older than the bodies that confine them. Their true world perceives and expects them to be one way and cannot fathom that internally they are well beyond their physical years.
I quite enjoyed the two view points presented in the text: Evelyn’s and Philippa’s. This story also takes on a thoughtful structure of opposing past and present. I believe Weymouth presents the story as such to convey how intensely interwoven these two worlds are for these children. Both realities compete in terms of importance in their present existence and memories and so the story weights each time and place as equal. The prose moves back and forth between the two worlds with little warning, which some have found confusing, but I found to be clearly indicated through division by chapter and signalled by italics. I think that this constant back and forth flow, this intertwining of time and place, gives the reader a solid grasp on the reality of the Hapwells’ situation. They must come to grips with what is and what was. They all have left a part of themselves behind in the Woodlands. Their current lives are so intensely informed by their experiences in another world. Thus, the story is artfully crafted to connect the reader with the characters intimately and to, for a brief moment, allow the reader to share in a common experience with these three young adults as they move forward unsteadily into their futures.
Overall, this book was really enjoyable. I was skeptical that it might be a C.S. Lewis rip-off, and there are certainly some very similar details, however I think Weymouth took this opportunity to acknowledge more in depth the repercussions of moving between worlds at a time where her characters where undergoing pivotal developmental changes. Their experiences inform who they are and who they will become and her story acknowledges that while the idea of a fantasy world is breath-taking and wonderful, that the characters who experience these worlds may also be deeply human–flawed, lovely, and totally imperfect.