The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
A book about two girls searching for a safe place to call home.
The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth follows the story of three siblings who, in the midst of WWII manage to find another world to call home.
During the bombings of London in WWII, Evelyn and her sister, Philippa, and brother, Jamie, are called into the Woodlands, a fantasy realm much like Narnia, where they are greeted by a giant stag who welcomes them to this new world. Though a war is about to break out in the Woodlands, Evelyn and her siblings dedicate themselves to the cause.
Later, they return to London at the same moment they left, losing no time. While Evelyn’s siblings manage to cope with returning after being away for years, Evelyn’s heart belongs to the Woodlands and she desperately longs to go back. When she goes missing after years of waiting to return to the Woodlands, it’s up to Phillipa to search for her sister and confront her guilt over leaving her sister for America.
While the idea of going away to a fantasy land is intriguing, and I loved the general feel of the London world the family lives in, this book felt very much like a call back to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. The Woodlands very much remind me of Narnia, with Cervus, the giant stag, reminding me of Aslan. Evelyn, the youngest of her siblings and the most impressionable, reminds me a lot of Lucy. Because of this, I didn’t really feel drawn into the story as much as I would have liked.
The story is broken up between two parts. The first half is Evelyn’s point of view, the second, Philippa’s. I found myself enjoying Philippa’s more because it takes place back in London, where the story feels much more original. I also really enjoyed her friendship/romance with Jack. It was really sweet and added a bit of happiness to an overall depressing story.
Evelyn’s half, though, the one you have to read first, is much less hopeful. The story flashes back and forth between the present and the past in the Woodlands, every other chapter. It’s almost like whiplash and I didn’t care for it very much. Philippa’s portion does the same, but her flashes are not of the Woodlands but of their time just after returning. Either way, as a plot device, it gets to be a bit too much.
And Evelyn’s story is quite depressing, with her spending most of her chapters (in the present) pining for the Woodlands and pushing everyone who loves her away because they’re not as good as the Woodlands. She basically is obsessed with the Woodlands and wanting to go back. Some might even characterize her as suffering from depression. And if she is, this makes her struggles, and lack of support, all the more difficult to read.
The phrase, “A Woodland’s heart always finds its way home,” is repeated over and over and over, in the past and the present. All in all, this book feels like a knock-off Narnia where all the children are depressed when they return home and can no longer stand living in their home world. Ultimately, I’m not quite sure what Weymouth’s message is, other than, if you somehow find a “new” world to live in, don’t ever go back to your old one because it’ll never be enough. What I wished it actually expressed is that if you or a loved one is suffering from depression, please, please get yourself/them help. Do not just try to pick up the pieces and deal with things yourself.
Literary Value: 2/5
The writing in this book is ok. It is often repetitive, can be overly poetic – Evelyn’s “thing” is poetry. She often includes full or partial poems (mostly from Teasdale and Dickinson) in her chapters. Philippa is the “artsy” one, who enjoys going to look at artwork in museums and trying to find hidden meanings in them.
This book really pushes the literary/art world at you, which normally I wouldn’t mind, except it seems to take place of Weymouth actually building a story for herself. Much of the poems and the paintings she includes in this book indicate, to me, that she found a bunch of art she liked and used this art to tell a story. While that’s not bad in itself, it doesn’t seem to have lent itself to her creating a truly compelling story. Instead it feels very patched together and disjointed.
Lastly, the parents in this book are very much “absentee parents,” like in many YA novels. There is an attempt to justify this, but ultimately I think it falls flat. Mostly, I can’t understand how neither of the parents can see that something is very wrong with Evelyn and try to do something about it. I mean, at one point she stays in bed for days, weeks even during the school year and when they come by to sort it out she tells them to go away and THEY JUST DO. I mean, what!? So, really, this book relies a little too heavily on teenage autonomy despite both parents being alive and well and basically remaining stick figures for the majority of the book.
Entertainment Factor: 2/5
I enjoyed the book at the very beginning and the second half until just about the end – I really didn’t like the ending. The main reason for me giving this such a low rating is because most of the book is teen angst and sadness. Evelyn can’t seem to find happiness in anything that isn’t the Woodlands. After reading her pushing friend after friend after friend away, in addition to her family, I began to get very tired of Evelyn. Her chapters are very repetitive, with her doing some wilderness/gardening thing and pining for the Woodlands or talking with someone and pining for the Woodlands. She remains very one-note and her story just isn’t that interesting ultimately.
Her sister, Philippa, however, is a lot more interesting. While Philippa did get on my nerves at first, she seems to have a bit more personality than her sister, maybe because she doesn’t mind being back in her home world and, even though she misses aspects of the Woodlands, she can miss it without falling apart. While both sisters have romantic interests in the book, only Philippa’s actually comes to anything (because she isn’t pushing every last person away like Evelyn). And because Philippa’s half of the story includes a bit of mystery – she’s trying to find out what happened to her sister – there’s a factor there that is more entertaining.
A part of me believes that Evelyn suffers from depression and I do feel sorry for her, but what makes me mad is that people can see how depressed she is and still do nothing about it. And the parts of the story that take place in the Woodlands, where Evelyn is actually happy, don’t really convince me that the Woodlands is the most amazing place and is way better than England. The world isn’t explored enough, I feel, to warrant it being interesting. The story keeps it very surface level and so I didn’t find the chapters spent in the Woodlands that much more interesting than the times spent back in England.
Cover Art Rating: 2/5
What I can’t understand about this cover is why it’s all silver and pale pink/purple and white instead of verdant green, emerald, and gold. I mean, the Woodlands are constantly being described as lush and full of natural life. And much of the book spent in England is spent in the countryside. So I can’t see why the publishers decided this monochromatic cover would be a better choice. And the stag included is white, while Cervus is constantly being described in the book as being ruddy red. Over and over. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the story at all, and so I can’t really give it a high rating. I think it looks pretty but it really doesn’t match the story or give you a sense of the Woodlands.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Wow. My hopes were so high for this book, but I just didn’t get what I was expecting. And while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, what the book actually is didn’t really wow me. The story itself feels very knock-off Narnia. Three children who travel to a magical world where a giant stag is “king” and there’s a war going on then return to London at the same moment they left so they not only return to their previous ages but they also aren’t missed. Because of this, I didn’t feel the story was original enough.
Otherwise, I really didn’t care for the characters. Evelyn is really depressed for most of the book, pushes everyone away, and would rather live in the Woodlands than her original one, even if that means leaving all her friends and family behind. She really does not care that anyone might miss her or not want to live without her. Other people’s feelings do not matter to her as much as living in the Woodlands. And Philippa is not much better, though at least she can cope with returning. Their brother Jamie is almost a non-existent character and their parents are stick figure parents.
The story is repetitive, the ending is dissatisfying, and ultimately this book left me wanting. And even the included poetry and art couldn’t make me like it, which is saying something. I wish it lived up to its premise.
Open discussion below!
Let me know what you think! If you’ve read The Light Between Worlds, share your thoughts! Did you enjoy it more than me? Hated it? Let me know in the comments below. And, as always keep up the reading!