Published by L.H. Cosway on 9th June 2020
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On a lonely cliff beside the vast blue sea there is a house.
In the house there lives a girl, and in the girl there lives a dream.
Soon she'll be as free as the fishes that swim beneath the water. But until then she bides her time and lives quietly, her every move ruled over by an uncaring, heartless stepmother.
The hope for freedom is all she has to hold onto. So close she can almost taste it. But when her stepmother’s estranged younger brother comes to stay, he presents a mystery that lures her in.
The girl doesn’t understand that beneath the allure of the unknown sometimes all we find are horrors. And in searching for the truth, her heart is in danger of falling like a rock to the bottom of the deep dark sea.
L.H. Cosway’s “Beyond the Sea” is an interesting one—and one that situates itself smack right between the well-known gothic tales: I see the naive, innocent Estella Shannon in the Northanger Abbey’s Catherine Morland, Noah Dylan as the tortured Heathcliff-esque hero, with a touch of suspense, the larger struggle between the reign of orthodox religion and the waning of it, a strong sense of the transgressive, the supernatural and more than a little high drama thrown in as family secrets, convoluted as they are, stay within a small town that seems to brew its own brand of evil tied so closely to its place and its past.
I love these motifs, as passé as they may be in this contemporary age, but that’s what really makes it fun. Written solely in Estella’s POV, we’re limited to what she knows (which is not much), what she sees and feels and it’s by this use of POV that we also doubt the reliability of her narration and her visions—take it or leave it, Cosway seems to suggest, urging you to draw a conclusion of your own but never quite really confirming the validity of the ‘veil’ or the ‘caul’.
It’s the limits of Estella’s knowledge that contributes to the almost-constant state of ignorance that we—along with Estella—fall under, which then brings about a question of legitimacy that we keep asking precisely because Estella seems to be the only one excluded from the inner circle of dirty history hinted so strongly at in the story. Her voice however, bleeds through as one that’s inconsistent, slipping in and out of a child-like narration of events while juggling the tone of a grown-up at other times.
I’m also less convinced by the romance that’s written into this; much is placed on suspense, atmosphere and wading deeper into murky waters that eventually leads nowhere up until the end that the focus on the relationship between Estella and Noah gets a tad bit lost, apart from the smouldering looks and the internalising of Estella’s growing attraction.
That said, judged through the characteristics of the gothic novel—‘Beyond the Sea’ certainly fulfils its function, more so if you’re into symbolism and foreshadowing/flashbacks, love reading between the lines and the literary tropes that come out in full force here. As a romance however, I wish there had been something more substantial I could have sunk my teeth into.