The Book of Pearl by Timothee De Fombelle
A fourteen-year-old boy runs through the forest – bleeding, heartbroken and confused – before stumbling across a welcoming hut belonging to an elderly saviour, Joshua Pearl. So begins a mystery that spans the long lifetimes of Pearl, the teenage narrator and the elusive girl who broke his heart. Pearl’s remote hut is full of suitcases containing carefully wrapped curios and unusual objects – scraps of evidence that hint at his troubled past and the magical kingdom from which he has been unhappily exiled.
While undeniably a book that touches on magic and fairies, The Book of Pearl takes place mostly in our human world, weaving real bits of history from pre- and post-World War II. I loved the romantic atmosphere of the Maison Pearl – an old world marshmallow shop where much of the action takes place – and was equally involved when the story shifted to the more sinister events of the war and the pursuit of Pearl by enemies from another world. De Fombelle writes in an elegant, spare and engaging way, so I can only assume that the translation from the French is an excellent one! My only worry was that I was left slightly wanting when it came to the feelings and fate of the evanescent fairy, Olia. As the object of both the narrator’s and Pearl’s intense interest, I would have liked to have learned more about her experiences.
The Book of Pearl is a charming and absorbing read that will be enjoyed by sophisticated younger readers, teens and adults who like their magic mixed in with a bit of history.
Leanne Hall is the Grants Officer for the Readings Foundation and also works as a children’s bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.