Review: The Book of Pearl

The Book of Pearl The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

The Book of Pearl is an intricate story of worlds within worlds by French playwright and prize-winning author Timothée de Fombelle, author of Toby Alone and Toby and the Secrets of the Tree. By intricate, I am not kidding. Three interwoven storylines exist- that of Joshua Pearl, an exiled man who appears suddenly in our world and is taken in by marshmallow confectioners; Prince Ilian, a man who only wanted to be free to love a fairy named Olia; and a fourteen-year-old boy who narrates the story in a bookended fashion. With the shifting perspectives from the first person to third person narratives, the book can become confusing to settle into at the beginning and a bit disorienting when the first person narrator reappears.

De Fombelle's lush prose seems to have been translated with sensitivity to the flow of language, though some of the spelling/typeset variations in my ARC copy left me puzzled for pronunciation of translations from what would be presumed to be French names (use of the Nordic language å, pronounced similar to ō, for instance, in the names Oliå and Iliån). Nevertheless, it is easy to get lost in de Fombelle's truly dreamy writing. I can dream of blackberry marshmallows or fairies who give up their wings only to find their loves for whom this sacrifice was given missing, lost, exiled, or of lost princes who forget themselves, but not their loves, and who dream of returning to their true love and finding that love unchanged. There are some beautiful ideas here but like a dream, there is not always clarity in the narrative structure. That made reading the book somewhat frustrating at times for me. Who are we? Where are we? Why are we here? I've learned to be cautious when dealing with books that have been translated into English, as there are both linguistic and cultural issues that may be lost on the English reader. At least getting lost in the world of Pearl finds the reader exploring a beautiful place.

I received a digital review copy of this book from NetGalley as well as a paper review copy.

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