Well, that blurb doesn't even nearly cover it. This is an unexpected gem of a book, as gorgeous as its cover art! The first few pages in I wasn't actually sure it was the perfect fit for me, and left it for a few days. Then we had a power cut, and by the time it was back on I'd finished the book. Sooooooo lovely. Actually lovely isn't the word. The word is something between bittersweet and beautiful and tortured (but only a little bit) and hopeful. Some pain and a lot of love.
Fundamentally The Book of Pearl is a love story, but it's also very much not. It's a fairytale (an excellent one at that), and at times a historical piece. It's a mystery and an adventure. Oh, it's so good! It's like opening a chest full of treasure, which is an analogy I've taken directly from the story - although that would be a suitcase, and... I won't say more than that.
Some specific thoughts:
- de Fombelle adds vivid detail to his descriptions, you feel as though you are THERE in the Parisian marshmallow shop (yes, there is one of those, and it's just as good as it sounds), the forest, the sinking palace...
- The story chops between times and places and characters but it never feels jarring, always just right.
- The characters are somehow untouchable. You read them at a remove, including the narrator when he appears, who gives just enough of himself to the story to move things forward. I liked this about the book, I enjoyed reading characters shrouded in mystery. I like that they have lives and thoughts that I'm not privy too. This is an out-of-the-ordinary story, and the characters are that too.
- I would align this story (in some ways) to Behind the Scenes at the Museum, or even a less tightly packed Isabel Allende novel. It's a softer story than either, but with a similar mix of magic and motif, with firmly grounding in a specific place in history.
- I would love to discuss the ending with you, if you do read it. I have some thoughts, and questions...
The Book of Pearl has been translated from French to English and is due for release today! Go and check out your local bookstore or library.
Thank you to Walker Books for providing a review copy of this book :-)