‘When the work was done… an old man told stories that tugged at Jo Pearl’s heartstrings. Each of the tales were familiar to him… Pearl looked into the gleaming eyes of everybody there and sensed that all was not lost.”
– Timothée de Fombelle, The Book of Pearl
A compelling story of a first love that defines a lifetime; perfect for fans of David Levithan, told with the intricate and beautiful writing style of bestselling author Timoth e de Fombelle. Joshua Pearl is from a world that our own no longer believes in. He knows that his great love is waiting for him in that distant place, but he is trapped in our time. As his memories begin to fade, he discovers strange objects, tiny fragments of a story from a long time ago. Can Joshua remember the past and believe in his own story before his love is lost forever.
Do you believe in fairies? Do you believe in magic? There is something about fairy tales, no matter what age you are reading them, that fills the world with magic again. They are a timeless story, an ageless story, that can be enjoyed over and over again. When The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle arrived in the letter box, I was definitely intrigued. I have had one of his other books – Vango – in my TBR pile for nearly a year and still haven’t got to it. Having now read The Book of Pearl, Vango might be staying in the pile a little longer…
A young boy falls in love with a fairy, so too does the prince, a cold and cruel ruler who wants the fairy for himself. When he can’t have her, then she, and the other boy are sentenced to death. Instead, they are secretly exiled to another world – our world – to live out their lives separately, and alone. And so begins the rest of the story… When our young narrator – fourteen-years-old – is running through the woods bleeding and confused, an elderly saviour takes him in. Joshua Pearl lives in a remote hut, filled to the brim with suitcases. Although the narrator is warned not to touch them, he does so anyway. Each suitcase contains a curious and unusual object, to remind Pearl of a time and place forgotten by readers now. You see, Joshua Pearl comes from a faraway kingdom. He arrived in our world in France sometime in the 1930’s; he was taken in by a couple who ran Maison Pearl, an old world marshmallow shop. The name Pearl belonged to them and Joshua adopted it after a time. It is a name he carries through World War Two and beyond. The Book of Pearl is a story of fairies, magic, and lasting first loves.
I am feeling rather conflicted after finishing The Book of Pearl and I don’t really know where to begin. Having read many French translations before, I knew it was likely I would struggle getting into this book. I have always found French translations to be hard reads, the only one more so than this book was Camus’ The Outsider. I have some knowledge of French and as a lover of the language, I just don’t feel that the magic and whimsy comes through. The story has its moments; the descriptions of the Maison Pearl and the marshmallow scenes are beautiful and warm, yet for some reason, the rest of the story fell a little flat. Perhaps the translator preferred those moments too…
There are many positives to this book too. The story has four main plot lines and I really liked the way de Fombelle has constructed them to weave in and out of each other. I enjoyed the way he reveals different parts of the story to the reader and the way it creates excitement and intrigue. It is a peculiar story with many of the familiar fairy tale tropes ticked off. It is a classic hero’s journey and even though I struggled with the language, I really feel as though other readers will enjoy this more than I did! There is so much to like; if you have read this book, please let me know what you think!
AUTHOR: Timothée de Fombelle
PUBLISHER: Walker Books Australia
PUB DATE: 1 June 2016
Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!