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:  

http://www.lesleyhayes.co.uk

http://blog.lesleyhayes.co.uk

A Field Beyond Time, By Lesley Hayes

(Available from Amazon in eBook format for Kindle).

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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                  

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Without a Safety Net

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The Drowned Phoenician Sailor

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Not Like Other People

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About echoesofthepen

Middle aged man, aspiring writer and author, one grown up son and young grand son, currently working in the rail industry but actively working to develop a writing career.

Posted on June 28, 2014, in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Indie Author Review Exchange and commented:

    My review of ‘A Field Beyond Time’ by fellow blogger and author, Lesley Hayes… reblogged from my personal blogsite…

    Like

  2. Marked for reading, Paul. Thanks. Also shared.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Have just bought the smoke and mirrors book on your recommendation, Paul. And hey, look, I hope you will not hesitate to get in touch for a chat if you’re ever feeling like it!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A well-written review. I am making note of this book – sounds like one I’d enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry to read that life has been difficult recently. I wish you all the best as you find your feet once again with the adjustments you have to make.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not so much difficult, as just a little sad and reflective and the need for some time out, something we all have to deal with as the years pass. Thanks for your kinds thoughts though…

      Sincerely,
      Paul..

      Like

  6. Sounds interesting man. Might have to look it up! Convincing dialogue is a tough task indeed. If you like involving stories and characterisation, have you come across Life After Life by Kate Atkinson? Mega best seller apparently. It wasn’t what I’d normally read either but I got pretty sucked into it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Stephen. I’ve made a note of it and will take a look. Also read your ‘Train Journey’ the other night… wow! Sorry for not stopping by recently, been busy and distracted with other things recently, both both writing and non-writing wise, but should be about more now once again…

      Speak soon no doubt,
      Regards, Paul…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Paul, for such an intelligently written review. As you and all writers know so well, it really is like casting a message in a bottle out into the ocean of potential readers when you dare to publish. This is even more so the case with self-publishing, without the dubious benefit of the obstacle course of possible editing suggested by agent and publisher. To know that a book has been well received and thoroughly understood and appreciated is the greatest gift. I’m delighted that you are going on to try ‘The Drowned Phoenician Sailor’, which has a very different feel to it, although, as you’ll discover, has some of the same themes embedded in it. I’m delighted that we’ve met through twitter – and yes, it does validate it as a platform for authentic connection, whatever its critics might say of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • No need for thanks, it was an absolute pleasure to read. Apologies though for taking a little longer to get round to it, it’s just that it happened to coincide with a lot of other things going on, and of course by the time i had finished it, I had so many notes on it, it took me a little longer than usual to edit them into a manageable form for a book review, otherwise I might have rambled on for ages.

      Best wishes,
      Paul…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I saw in your reply to Veronica that you have had an awful lot happening in your life lately. I’m sorry you’ve gone through the loss of friends and colleagues. That’s always a shock, whenever it happens, and a source of sadness, to lose someone. I’ll continue reading your blog with interest, Paul. I hope life is on a more even keel now. Very best wishes to you, Lesley

        Liked by 1 person

        • Just one of those inevitabilitites of getting older, when you begin to lose people and friends just a little too frequently, but the finding and making of new ones helps… Thanks again though, Lesley…

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for this review, Paul. This book sounds great – right up my street; will definitely look it up! Hope all’s good with you otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Veronica,

      Am pleased I’ve piqued your interest, and again, many thanks for taking the time to say so, it’s always appreciated. Things are pretty well with me again now, but what with lots of editing, proof reading, and non-blog writing, and sadly, attending a couple of funerals of longtime friends and colleagues recently, my blog’s been taking a bit of a backseat over the past month. Hope everything is well with you, and I’ll be stopping by soon now that things are finally more settled again.

      Cheers,
      Paul…

      Like

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