Jennifer is the quintessential modern woman. She has clawed her way to the upper rung of an advertising agency and now works in London. Although she has a few regrets, she has convinced herself that her prestige and reputation are all she needs to feel successful. The only emotional responsibilities she allows herself are for her ailing Aunt Cecilia and her greyhound, Dragon.
On her way to visit Aunt Cecilia for Christmas, Jennifer finds herself waylaid by a mysterious hedge. As she tries to figure out why there is a neverending hedge in the middle of Wales, Dragon indicates he needs out of the car - now. Although he is on a leash, this cannot stop him when tempted by a large grey cat that emerges from the hedge. When Dragon dives into the green wall after the cat, Jennifer follows to find him. What happens next meets almost every requirement I have ever had for a daydream.
Jennifer meets a talking cat, a talking owl, dragons and (of course) a tall, dark and handsome stranger (Be still, my beating heart!). She has been swept away in time and place to Clipton Magna, a small estate where time stopped somewhere during the reign of King George III. Manners are the way of life here; people dress for dinner, and there is no such thing as modern plumbing. While Jennifer tries to grasp the meaning of all this, her questions are never quite answered. On top of it all, the stranger, also known as Jeremy the Young Master, seems to cause an instant electrical reaction whenever they touch.
Roby James' writing style is exquisite. The descriptions of people and places come alive, making an incredible tale seem so very plausible. Jenniferís struggle to balance her idea of success with the needs of those around her echo the struggle of any woman in the modern era. Her fear of being unimportant is felt by many of us today.
I would have liked to get to know the other people at Clipton Magna, to understand what life was like for them. However, Jennifer is the focus of the fable. We watch as she must make a decision while having no idea of how far-reaching the consequences may be. I enjoyed Jamesí prose and feel this book will appeal to anyone who has ever daydreamed of finding a lost country. Beyond the Hedge would also serve as an excellent introduction to fantasy for those who have never sampled imaginary worlds or talking animals. I will eagerly search for more from Roby James.