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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Book of Pearl (The)
by Timothee de Fombelle
Age Range: 12+
The opening chapter sees the narrator, a fourteen-year-old boy, running through the forest. He is heartbroken, confused and injured. When he stumbles across a lone hut where he encounters an elderly man, Joshua Pearl, he is provided with temporary sanctuary. The boy discovers that his remote refuge is full of suitcases, each containing carefully wrapped strange and unusual objects. A mystery, that spans the life times of Pearl, the narrator and the mysterious, elusive girl called Oliå, slowly begins to unravel.
Joshua Pearl has been banished from his fairy-tale world becoming trapped in our world – France of the 1930s. Here he manages to make a new life for himself, finding work with the owners of Maison Pearl, an artisan marshmallow shop in Paris. Despite serving in the French army, fighting with the Resistance in the mountains of Provence and finally taking over Maison Pearl after the war, Joshua still clings to the memories of his past. As these begin to fade, he sets out upon a quest to collect objects and fragments from tales that have already been told. He hopes these scraps of evidence from the magical kingdom from which he has been exiled, will one day allow him to return home. Entwined with Joshua’s tale is Oliå who also transcends two worlds and the narrator who tells the story.
The Book of Pearl is a complex and beguiling novel by master storyteller Timothée de Fombelle, expertly translated by Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon. It moves effortlessly between two worlds and is an absorbing and sophisticated read with many layers of interwoven stories all connected by various threads.
De Fombelle is always full of invention. He cleverly weaves the history of our world – pre- and post- World War II with a fairy tale world. There is also a strong French flavour drawing the reader in, whether it is the rain soaked streets of Paris when Joshua is first discovered, the evocative smell of the almond marshmallows in Maison Pearl or the mountains of Provence.