HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!! I love books that have been translated from languages other than English. It gives us a view into other masterful literature we might never have read otherwise. I’m not sure this book is for everyone… BUT IT SURE WAS FOR ME! Let me explain why…
The Book of Pearl
by Timothée de Fombelle
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon
Published February 6th 2018
by Candlewick Press
An English translation of Timothee de Fombelle’s French, Le Livre de Perle, a popular book in his country, brimming with romance and history, mystery and adventure. A boy meets an old man through an odd series of events which haunt him his entire youth. Because of that meeting he plays an important role in two star crossed lovers (Ilian and Olia) story. As he recounts his role, the lovers’ stories and reveals who the mysterious Joshua Pearl is, a very real fairy tale weaves before our eyes.
World War II! Fairy Tales! Parallel Worlds! Star Crossed Lovers! History! Narrators! French Literature! Marshmallows!
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!
I’m not a fan of this cover. 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 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 quite LOVE the title though and the cover design could have gone with the marshmallow bakery instead. 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.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building
I basically loved this book due to the mix of writing, storycraft and characters/plot. I outlined my reader reasons in my first impression, the storycraft reasons in my 3 point why and now for the writing…
Laini Taylor is the queen of heavy prose. The more lyrical and wordy the better for her and the more words she uses the denser and more weighty the writing style. Somehow in this book (its magical!) the words have the density of Laini Taylor’s prose but the gossamer weight of spidersilk! It’s light and airy and beautiful and I didn’t mind it one bit. It is THE BEST EXAMPLE of lyrical writing I have EVER read.
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.
Do you ever feel you’re the ONLY one who enjoyed a book?
I love indie authors and support them when their work is something I enjoyed! So when I got the opportunity to read this by a French author I was shocked by how much I loved this little sleeper. It’s quite unusual and is very similar to an indie book, but its worth loving on!
Thanks for Reading XOXO
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. It has not influenced my opinions.