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The Book of Pearl Kindle Edition
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The short review...
This is one of those books where you have to read the blurb (preferably MY blurb*) BEFORE starting the book so that you have a clue what is going on, because at first you are thrown into the ocean with no land in sight and if you don't know how to float you will have a horrible time and die drowning. Hahahaha it doesn't sound promising does it...? And I'm not sure anyone else will be able to understand why I LOVE this book so much but I’m going to try to explain...
First the story is made of mystery and moonbeams. The mysteries literally stack one on top of another and you can only breathe long enough to follow where they lead you. You don't know who is who for a while or how things connect because the author doesn't explain (love this ALL showing approach!) Second, this is THE best lyrical prose I've ever read... it's a heavy writing style made light! Somehow the translators captured the complex writing of the original author (bravo!) so I felt like I was reading it in French! Third, a masterful fusion of fairy tale, historical France during WWII and modern formatting techniques.
*If you compare blurbs you will see mine approaches the story from a totally different place. In fact I barely mention Joshua Pearl and instead point out another boy... who could potentially be the author and how he learned of these events... you'll have to read it for yourself to confirm or deny!
Cover & Title grade -> C-
I'm not a fan of this cover. I would have preferred the luggage of the original cover as the story is told through the eyes and knowledge of a boy at almost present day and the mystery of the luggage is quite compelling! I DO understand why they did the cover like this trying to capture the fairy tale nature to the story that links everything together. It further confuses you though once you enter the book, expecting one thing and getting another. I do quite LOVE the title though and the cover design could have gone with the marshmallow bakery for the cover instead of the luggage. Either way, the enchanting aspects of the story could have acted as a draw for the book WAY better than the butterfly fairy.
Why did others struggle while I LOVED it so much?
The POV is complex.
The narrator of the story is a boy who meets an old man early in the book and is sucked into the mystery of the man and his quest. Because we are moving back and forth through time as well as between worlds and this boy is the narrator, you aren't reading the story from Ilian and Olia's POV nor even Joshua Pearl's! They have recounted their stories to the boy and he is telling us. It's done using a mix of POV and is quite masterful but because so much of third person is used and many readers feel distant from that POV the book can be daunting to read.
You aren't told a thing!
In fact the narrator is unreliable as to whether his conclusions are correct or not. He operates as if what he has come to realize is truth only for it not to fit together as well as he'd like us the accept. It's hard because there is so little explanation as to what is happening even as we are caught up in the moment and how the person telling the story believes it to be. In reality how this story is told is EXACTLY how stories are... it's only in recording that hindsight is added. It's brilliant as you get to literally piece together a mystery... and this is only daunting if mystery piecing is NOT fun to you (like it is to me... and evidently French people.)
It reads like a historical account.
We LOVE to read and write about history. More than that though we love when a person's story is captured on the page. Joshua Pearl has lived a twisted and messed up life and it is captured just like a dramatic account made by a family member who wants to share the life of this magical person who they can't believe is a part of their family. We get glimpses of what the person whose history it is thought but we don't live inside that person all the time (which can stump some readers). It more about the magic of their journey and how things came together for that specific someone.
When the writing style is this good, and the storycraft is brilliant plus I'm captured by mystery after mystery all surrounding the same man, a man who deserves happiness... I can't help but LOVE the book, a book like The Book of Pearl.
These days, fantasy is dark and fast-paced. There are villains in the shadows with twisted plans that will keep you up at night. There are brazen heroes and maidens who don't need rescuing.
The Book of Pearl is something else entirely.
This novel reads like something by the Grimm brothers. The Kingdoms are a lush fantasy world so beautiful in their simplicity and believable enough that they could be our own, in another age and time. That is the charm of a fairytale - it's fantasy, but it feels like, just maybe, it could be real.
You feel heartbreak and longing for the characters.
The difference between a classic fairytale and The Book of Pearl is that you can't help but to fall for Ilian and Olia. The Narrator takes us back and forth between Ilian's childhood in the Kingdoms and his adulthood in WWII-era France. The story follows his struggle to remember who he is, the girl he loves, and collect tokens of proof. Ilian and Olia have a complicated curse set upon them which leads them both to intense, deep heartbreak.
This book touches so many of the senses and absolutely burrowed its way into my heart. I was very apprehensive about requesting it in the first place, after hearing other bloggers describe it as "just okay" or "not for me". I'm really, really glad I did. Sarah Ardizzone has done a beautiful job of translating the story and keeping the language soft and magical.
I guess for me, a lot of the things that turned other bloggers off this book really pulled me in. I genuinely didn't want to put this book down every night - there's so much between the lines that I want to know about Ilian and his quest. But the ending was the important part for these characters, and not the journey.
It was lovely. Really, really lovely.
Most recent customer reviews
First and foremost, I would never has guessed this book was a translation!Read more
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The Book of Pearl is an intricate story of worlds within worlds by French playwright and prize-winning author Timothée de Fombelle, author of Toby Alone and...Read more