The Light Between Worlds by Laura E Weymouth – REVIEW
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.
Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.
Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.
But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.
[Content warnings are available on the author’s website here.]
“I sit by the rushing water, a patchwork girl, pieced together from bits of pain, all of them a different shape, a different colour.”
Thanks to the wonderful Chicken House books, I was able to read a copy of this book early in exchange for an honest review. Have you ever wondered how the Pevensie children adjusted to normal life after living so long in Narnia? Well, this book tells the story of three children returning to wartime London after spending over five years in the magical Woodlands.
The book is split into two parts, with the first being told from Evelyn’s perspective and the second from her older sister Philippa’s. Both narratives were beautifully written, with evocatively emotive language that perfectly encapsulated the feelings of each sister. I found myself unable to put down this lyrical book once the first chapter gripped me.
“Memory is a sharp-edged knife I can’t help but cut myself on, no matter how carefully I wield it.”
There’s a poignancy to Evelyn’s narrative which is infused with such a deep sense of yearning that I physically felt for her. Her loss and longing for the Woodlands leave Evelyn drowning in memory, withdrawing from the world and struggling to establish her identity. The mesmerising prose portrayed Evelyn’s feeling of being out of time and place so vividly that the gradual decline in her mental health seemed almost inevitable.
For some reason, I was expecting to dislike Philippa, perhaps because I found Evelyn so relatable, but the author created another beautifully complex character. Philippa never has that complete identification with the Woodlands that Evelyn does but she still feels dislocated at times and is certainly deeply affected by her time away. Guilt and feelings of unworthiness permeate Philippa’s everyday life and it’s hard not to feel that her identity is as fractured as Evelyn’s.
“No one’s ever had a choice around you and Ev. The two of you are like gravity. It’s impossible to get free once you’re caught.”
The poignant ending was wonderfully handled and left the reader with a sense of fragile hope for the future happiness of each character. It was also painfully obvious that their time in the Woodlands has changed each of the siblings irrevocably, leaving them permanently torn between two worlds. The exploration of mental health was nuanced and thoughtful, and the portrayal of family ties was incredibly relatable. Overall, I thought this book was fantastic and I’ll definitely be re-reading it in the future. It would also make the perfect Christmas gift for any bookworms you know.