Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Review: The Book of Pearl by Timothee de Fombelle
Author: Timothee de Fombelle
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 2 June 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
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 Timothee de Fombelle.
Joshua Pearl is from a world that our own no longer believes in - a world of fairytale. 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 for ever? (summary from Goodreads)
The Book of Pearl is an imaginative, slightly offbeat story with roots in fairy tales.
I've got to say, The Book of Pearl starts off really confusing. Within chapters de Fombelle switches point of views, worlds and time periods multiple times, and does so without any set up - no headings or dates, for example, to orientate. Add to this nameless characters as well and it's hard to follow along with what exactly is happening. The thing is, The Book of Pearl follows this same pattern throughout the entirety of the novel, but as I read and gathered details - like names and which characters they belonged too! - it wasn't long before the story started to flow nice and easy, and I was able to put the pieces together and see the big picture. Perseverance is key to The Book of Pearl, and for me it paid off. The author has crafted a book that is quite magical, something very mired in fairy tale. I liked the idea of stories, fairy tales we know well, as being true events of alternate worlds. de Fomelle has imagined a dark fantasy world, one of mythical creatures, royal families, and vicious villains. Though it takes a while for the pace to settle, for the back and forth to become clear and meaningful, I did really enjoy de Fombelle's telling the story of this world alongside the setting of France during World War II. It's a mix of historical and fantasy that worked well. Once everything clicked into place, The Book of Pearl had a whimsy and romance to it that I appreciated. de Fombelle writes as if it's all true, that his book is a testament to these adventures, and that added to the magic.
It's interesting, I'm not really sure how much to share in this review. There's much I want to write about but would need to explain in detail, and I feel like maybe I shouldn't share too much. The Book of Pearl is a bit of a puzzle and I think part of its charm is reading it and figuring it out for yourself. So what I will say of de Fombelle's characters is that they really suit the story. They're quite the puzzle too, as their identities are not clear for the first part of the book. What is clear early on is that we have a fairy who has lost her true love; a betrayed Prince banished to our world; a boy of our world unknowingly caught up in their story; and a dark genie and evil king bent on revenge and destruction. Quite the cast right there. Honestly, even that information takes some piecing together, but it's what becomes obvious the quickest. I do think The Book of Pearl is ultimately worth the effort and confusion. It's a fairy tale, really, one of magic and love. It's the story of a pair of doomed star crossed lovers cursed to be apart, their fight to get home and to be together again. de Fombelle tells their story across nearly one lifetime and asks simply that we believe. Doing so brings the story together and it's quite lovely.
Though somewhat convoluted, The Book of Pearl is a fanciful story with heart.