The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming
|The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Jones|
|Summary: The discovery of a precious freshwater pearl called 'Queenie' changes the lives of a young Scottish boy and a penniless girl from York in this family saga that spans years and continents.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: June 2016|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
I always think, without the grit there would be no pearl. Sorrows have a way of strengthening the heart, never forget that, child.
Greta Costello lives in poverty with her mother and siblings and must work as a skivvy to put bread on the table. She manages to find some joy in her work though, especially in her 'Sabbath' job working for a kindly old widowed Jew. The two become friends and he offers to take her on as his apprentice, stringing pearls. Could this highly-skilled job be her key to a better life? At the same time, many miles away in Scotland, Jem Baillie and his father can't contain their delight when they discover a magnificent, flawless freshwater pearl at the end of a long day of fishing. They call the pearl 'Queenie' and from that pivotal moment, the fates of Greta, Jem and Queenie will be inextricably linked.
The Last Pearl is an epic historic family saga that spans many years and a variety of locations. Greta is determined to make a better life for herself and her family, but the sacrifices that she has to make will cost her more than she knows. Meanwhile, hardworking Jem sees success at every turn. He is determined to go to America and make his fortune and return to Scotland a wealthy man. Our two protagonists suffer many hardships on their road to happiness and both are in danger of forgetting what truly matters in life. Ambition can blind a person and a pearl can be considered both lucky or unlucky, depending on your viewpoint.
Pearls are at the heart of the story and Fleming has clearly done a great deal of research in order to give the book authenticity. We learn about the whole process of the pearl industry; pearl formation, fishing, dealing, stringing and selling. Other aspects of the book have also been thoroughly studied and researched. For example, one family in the story are Quakers, and the author gives us plenty of detail about the faith, worship and home life of the 'Friends'.
Fleming has a wonderful way of weaving a story and although the book is quite long, there is never a dull moment, with plenty of twists, turns and revelations. The characters grow, adapt and change as the book progresses and it was especially interesting to see how tragedies in Greta's life lead to her developing a protective layer around herself, just as a mussel forms a pearl. Jem changes a lot throughout the book too, from humble beginnings as a poor son of a gypsy to a successful businessman. Both need to consider what is really important if they can every truly be happy.
The only thing that bothered me about the book was the use of modern language, especially in dialogue between characters. The book is set in 1879, but the way that individuals speak to one another does not always conform to the time period. For example, in one scene, someone is described as having 'ants in their pants' which is not only American slang, but also originated half a century after the book was set. It was such a shame because the rest of the book felt so authentic and well-researched, and the anachronistic language let it down.
The Last Pearl will appeal to readers who love historical fiction and good family sagas with lots of plot developments and memorable characters. Many thanks to the publishers for my review copy.
If you enjoyed this book, my not try another of Leah Fleming's stories? We recommend Remembrance Day, a saga spanning two world wars with some likeable characters and good plot twists.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming at Amazon.com.
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