I always used to associate Miranda Dickinson with the run up to Christmas because that’s when her previous books have come out. But her latest novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, bucked this trend, coming out earlier this summer, when it was an absolute joy to escape with her and her characters to the Cornish seaside resort of St Ives.
Can you fall in love with someone before you’ve even met?
Seren MacArthur is living a life she never intended. Trying to save the Cornish seaside business her late father built – while grieving for his loss – she has put her own dreams on hold and is struggling. Until she discovers a half-finished seaglass star on her favourite beach during an early morning walk. When she completes the star, she sets into motion a chain of events that will steal her heart and challenge everything she believes.
Jack Dixon is trying to secure a better life for daughter Nessie and himself. Left a widower and homeless when his wife died, he’s just about keeping their heads above water. Finding seaglass stars completed on Gwithian beach is a bright spark that slowly rekindles his hope.
Seren and Jack are searching for their missing pieces. But when they meet in real life, it’s on the opposing sides of a battle. Jack is managing the redevelopment of a local landmark, and Seren is leading the community campaign to save it.
Both have reason to fight – Seren for the cause her father believed in, Jack for his livelihood. But only one can win. With so much at stake, will they ever find what they are really looking for?
One of the reasons Miranda Dickinson’s books appeal to me so much is that she builds such complete worlds in her novels and then fills them with characters who feel real. Characters who you feel certain are all still going about their lives in St Ives long after you finish the book and shelve it.
They’re not simply people who you understand or chime with, either. These are people you wish you knew, some of whom you feel certain you’d be friends with, if only you met. And this is precisely how it feels here with Seren, Jack, Aggie, Kieran and Becca. There’s such warmth and a genuine concern for others in their exchanges, even those between Seren and Jack, that you sense these are good people, ones you’d like to bump into at Aggie’s coffee hut or in Becca’s pub.
Alongside all the potential for romance among the friends and rivals, there’s also a great local campaign running throughout the book. It feels important and so genuine that I googled the existence of Seren’s dad’s local luminary and was ready to champion its cause. In addition to this, Somewhere Beyond the Sea is also a moving and rather beautiful father and daughter story. Or two father and daughter stories.
There’s Jack and Nessie’s storyline where Jack is struggling to bring up his plucky little daughter, Nessie, and provide for them both. Jack always tries to do what’s best for both of them, and more particularly Nessie, spending time with his daughter on the beach, and learning with her help to see that magic and wonder still exist in the world.
Then there’s Seren who’s struggling too, but in a different way. She’s grieving her amateur astronomer Dad, while running his failing art & craft gallery and shop, MacArthur’s, and taking on his personal crusade. It’s a bittersweet time for her: she feels close to him while star-gazing and when she first takes over his campaign but it exhausts her trying to keep his business afloat while doing battle with the contractor, knowing that she’s not doing what makes her happy. My heart went out to her, still trying to make her Dad proud and honour his memory, while fighting the need to break free and lead her own life.
Miranda Dickinson’s wonderful world-building, characters and storytelling all make Somewhere Beyond the Stars a pretty special book, so it’s only natural she brings it all together with some everyday magic and kindness in the shape of seaglass stars and friends being there for each other when it matters. I think this is her best book yet and I would give it all the (seaglass) stars on Gwithian Beach. Pretty sure its marshmallow-mad mermaids would too. (You’ll have to read it to find out more about those.)
Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson is published by Pan Macmillan. It’s available as an audiobook, ebook and in paperback from Amazon UK (where the ebook’s only 98p throughout August). Alternatively buy from Hive and support your local independent bookshop.
Miranda Dickinson is a six-times Sunday Times Bestseller and an international bestseller in four countries. To find out more about Miranda and her books, check out her Author Website, have a look at her vlog, like her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.
*GIVEAWAY* I have one paperback of Somewhere Beyond the Sea to give away. Leave a comment below and the squirrels’ll pick a winner on Monday.