The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle
Translated from French to English by Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon
Published June 2, 2016 by Walker Books
Source: the publisher
Rating: 2 stars
From the blurb: 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?
I've heard a lot of excellent things about the work of Timothée de Fombelle and was keen to read The Book of Pearl. In the opening scene we're introduced to a fairy girl who has just relinquished her powers in exchange for the life of her beloved. The story then jumps to half a century later and we meet Joshua as a fourteen year old boy. The story weaves through history, wars and worlds, just like a modern fairy tale.
I've seen lots of positive reviews by French readers for The Book of Pearl so I have to wonder if something was lost in the translation as I found this very confusing. There were many times I wanted to stop reading because I couldn't understand what was going on and who exactly Joshua was, but I chose to keep reading in the hopes that everything would finally be explained.
I never got that closure as even the end was a bit of a mystery to me. Having been told in past tense, I assumed we'd finally understand if Joshua was narrating his story, as well as the story of Olia and Ilian, but I have to admit I can't say I'm certain that was the case. There were so many jumps between time periods, worlds, and characters, that I was left a little perplexed.
Nevertheless, it was a beautifully written story and I enjoyed the historical aspect as well as the descriptions of Maison Pearl, the marshmallow shop.
Thank you to Walker Books for my review copy.