A Field Beyond Time – Book Review
This is the first of Lesley Hayes’s novels I’ve read, although it won’t be the last, having already added ‘The Drowned Phoenician Sailor’ to my TBR/Review list. I first discovered this author’s books by way of Twitter (who says Twitter doesn’t work?), and after some initial chat, emails, and taking a look at her blog I added ‘A Filed Beyond Time’ to my read & review list.
Lesley Hayes has been writing ever since she was a child. Since then she has been published in several woman’s and literary magazines, read her stories on BBC radio, and in 1986 had her first novel, ‘Keeping Secrets,’ published. In addition to that and ‘A Field Beyond Time,’ Lesley Hayes is the author of several more successful and well received novels. Further information and links to her writing can be found at:
A Field Beyond Time, By Lesley Hayes
(Available from Amazon in eBook format for Kindle).
This is a book that is as much character driven as it is about plot and storyline, although in this case, the one skilfully reinforces the other. What follows is an enthralling story, spanning more than three decades across as many continents, from the outward respectability of suburban America and academic Oxford, to the drugs and cults of the hippie trail retreats of India.
It starts off with the death of the mother of one of the central characters, Mira, an American artist and photographer. Mira is coming to terms with her mother’s deathbed revelations, and the cold remoteness of their relationship whilst she was alive. The story then switches to Daniel, a psychotherapist living in Oxford in the UK, and his younger wife, Callie. Daniel is troubled by recurring nightmares that relate to his travels as a young man in India, as well as worrying about the growing stagnation of his marriage; Callie too worries about her marriage, her regrets, and about getting older among other things. Secrets abound on all sides, each only knowing their side and part of the wider story.
Initially it feels as though you’re reading two completely different stories in parallel, effortlessly switching between the two, but with little or no clue as to how these seemingly unconnected stories of Mira and the troubled English couple will tie in with one another, and it is quite some time before they suddenly do collide in dramatic and unforeseen circumstances. Throughout this book, the author leaves several hints and clues as to the truth of what’s going on, whilst leaving the characters totally at odds with one another: conflict, deceit, confusion, and misconceptions are in abundance for much of the time, so much so that even with the benefit of insight into all the character’s minds, the reader is still kept guessing almost to the end, just what the overall truth is.
Much of the story is told by way of memories and reflections of the past, but sufficiently grounded in the context of the story so as not to be a ‘stream of consciousness,’ as in say, Mrs Dalloway, though the structure of writing and literary style certainly echoes that of Virginia Wolf’s classic novel; there are several scenes of self-reflection and analysis that cleverly develop character, revealing links between the past and present, giving the reader a real sense of how the characters became the people they are rather than some two dimensional snapshot image taken at a single instant in time. Quite unusually, the author occasionally switches from third to first person narratives for some of the different chapters and characters, but still achieves good and clear transitions and story progression.
Although this is not the sort of book I would normally read, it is without doubt one of the best I’ve read this year; the quality of writing and depth of characterisation, aligned with intelligent and convincing dialogue, and above all, a truly fascinating and intriguing story, kept me interested and entertained throughout. It’s not a book that can easily be skimmed through, demanding instead the reader’s full and undivided attention, but that attention is well rewarded by a remarkable story, and characters that will stay in the reader’s mind long after they’ve finished reading. A literary gem!
Links to further works by Lesley Hayes:
The Oscar Dossier
Without a Safety Net
The Drowned Phoenician Sailor
Not Like Other People