What must life have been like for Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy after they returned from Narnia? That fabulous premise has inspired debut author Laura E. Weymouth’s The Light Between Worlds.
When siblings Evelyn, Philippa, and Jamie are forced to take refuge in their family air-raid shelter in 1944 London, they are suddenly transported out of our world into a magical one called the Woodlands. They spend years there and upon their return to wartime England (where no time has passed), Evelyn, the youngest, is unable to deal with being separated from what she sees as her true homeland.
The book is divided into two first-person sections, the first from Evelyn’s point of view, and the second from older sister Philippa’s. The early chapters are slightly bumpy in that the readers are asked to sympathize with Evelyn, who is mourning a world the reader doesn’t know yet. But as flashbacks reveal not only the magic of the Woodlands but how strongly Evelyn bonded with the place, it’s not hard to see how deep and valid her grief truly is.
As readers come to understand the impact of the children’s long sojourn, the story warms up and the characters come alive. The second half is darker and filled with incredible energy. Weymouth does something very clever with Philippa, the beautiful older sister who apparently adjusts seamlessly to her return. In the first half, Philippa is described by Evelyn in the same maddening way that C.S. Lewis treated his similar “beautiful older sister” character, Susan, who was eventually banned from Narnia due to her interest in “lipstick and invitations.”
Weymouth turns this old trope on its head with the shift into Philippa’s perspective, where we get fascinating insight into her – lipstick and all. Weymouth clearly knows her Narnia, given how closely Philippa and Evelyn mirror Lewis’s Susan and Lucy. The subtle but important move of giving the Susans of the fantasy world a voice is a welcome evolution. There is space in Weymouth’s worlds for women characters to present themselves in multiple positive ways.
The sisters are the engine of this compelling tale, and at times their relationship reads as a heartbreaking allegory for mental illness. Evelyn can’t control her self-harm and longing to leave our world, while Philippa is unable, despite her best efforts, to tether Evelyn to it. The Light Between Worlds is essentially about the importance of finding home, however strange that might look, and it’s a journey that Weymouth captures in all its magic.