Title: The Lost Pearl
Author: Emily Madden
Published: August 20th 2018
Publisher: Harlequin – Mira
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary/Historical, Australian
Rating: 5 stars
Honolulu, Hawaii 1941
On the evening of her sixteenth birthday party, Catherine McGarrie wants nothing more than for the night to be over, even though the opulence of the ballroom befits the daughter of a US Navy Rear Admiral. Then she meets Charlie, a navy officer from the other side of the tracks, a man her parents would never approve of.
As rumours of war threaten their tropical paradise, Catherine and Charlie fall in love. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941 changes their lives forever.
Seventy–five years later, addled by age and painkillers, Catherine tells her granddaughter Kit her story and reveals the tale of a long–lost treasure. Can Kit uncover the secret and reunite her family? Or will the truth tear them apart?
The author of Summers with Juliette, Emily Madden, presents a nostalgic and an epic historical crossed with contemporary fiction novel, titled The Lost Pearl. This is a wonderful set piece if you are in the mood for romance, history and family secrets. I adored The Lost Pearl and I quickly added this beautiful novel to my list of all time favourite reads this year.
There are so many new novels I have been looking forward to reading this year and The Lost Pearl has been high up on my agenda of books I must read. The long wait for the new Emily Madden novel is now over and I must say it was well worth it. I devoured The Lost Pearl and I found myself so enchanted by many elements this stunning book had to offer.
Firstly, I must point out what a truly magical step back in time The Lost Pearl presented. In the early stages of the novel, we find ourselves situated in Honolulu, Hawaii, with the main character of the novel, Catherine (Kitty) just before the onset of the Pacific War and the tragic attack on Pearl Harbour. Madden does a superb job of setting her scene. She gives us an excellent feel for the laid back and idyllic way of life in Hawaii, preceding the Pearl Harbour bombing. Madden outlines the sense of possible danger and how the people of Hawaii were on edge, but some still reacted by throwing caution into the wind. Madden also brings our attention to the class, race and status divisions present in the 1940’s, with particular attention to the lack of freedom placed on young women. For those women that exercised their freedom it was a tough price to pay. I believe Madden spent a great deal of time conducting first hand research on Hawaii at this time and I have to say this is evident through The Lost Pearl’s historically well-informed narrative.
Madden’s meticulous approach to her research also extends to the Sydney based narrative in The Lost Pearl. In particular, I was impressed by Madden’s representation of Catherine’s experience of the Crown Street Women’s Hospital. These scenes give us an insight into the operations of this Sydney based hospital in the early 1940’s. This is a highly regrettable and sad chapter in history for women, especially those from lower classes and indigenous women. I want to thank Emily Madden for her research into this area and the time she has taken to insert this sensitively into her novel. I was visibly moved by this aspect of the novel.
The Lost Pearl is populated by two main colourful characters and as this is a multiple time frame narrative, there is the central character of Catherine in the past and her granddaughter Kit in the present. As we follow Catherine across time, we closely follow her life events. The contemporary sections of the narrative work to illuminate Catherine in the present as an elderly woman nearing the end of her life, reflecting on a long-held set of secrets. It is Kit’s mission to uncover her grandmother’s fascinating life story. I enjoyed Kit’s character arc, her connection to her grandmother and her own soul searching journey. The other protagonists that work to expand the pages of The Lost Pearl definitely sent mixed reactions my way! Catherine’s mother in particular sent me into a spin! I was appalled, shocked and angry for Catherine. I also wanted to find out more about Charlie overall, but as this is Catherine and Kit’s story, perhaps Madden decided not to add more of the Charlie aspect to the narrative. There are many other memorable side characters that move in and out of this story that I appreciated meeting.
Madden has decided to format her second book in the popular dual time frame narrative structure, which perfectly suits the themes and style of The Lost Pearl. It is a hard task to achieve the ideal line between a well-balanced contemporary narrative, alongside a rich historical based storyline. However, Madden is fearless in her approach and I am happy to report that the different narrative threads connect very well. I did not encounter any gaps, inconsistencies or loose threads. The pace was consistent and the structure ensures that the reader stays completely absorbed in this novel the whole way through. The gradual reveal of pertinent information linking to the illusive ‘lost pearl’ is also very carefully embedded within the novel.
My first expectation of this novel was that it was going to be about recovering a lost object, a valuable pearl, but I eventually realised my predictions were way off kilter! What emerged instead was an intricate story of lost love, embedded secrets, tragedy, betrayal, sadness, missed opportunities and loss. Although there is plenty of sadness in this novel and many tears were shed, I was still enamoured with this entire story. The ending was so very fitting and poignant; I really could not see it concluding in any other way!
I am a great admirer of Madden’s writing and I do hope that she produces future works in the historical fiction field. I feel Madden has demonstrated an aptitude for this line of writing. If you are looking for an accessible and distinguished piece of historical fiction, combined with a touch of contemporary fiction and romance, make The Lost Pearl a reading priority.
The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden was published on 20th August 2018 by Harlequin Mira. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Lost Pearl, Emily Madden visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Mira for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Lost Pearl, is book #109 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge