Title: The Book of Pearl
Author: Timothée de Fombelle, translated by Sarah Ardizzone & Sam Gordon
Publisher: Candlewich Press
Expected Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 2.5 Stars
I received an ARC copy of The Book of Pearl in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley, as well as the translators of this edition, Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon for this advanced copy which is expected to be released on February 06, 2018.
Dear fellow Babblers,
The NetGalley copy I read is actually a translation of Timothee de Fombelle’s original French, Le Livre de Perle, a well known book of fairytale and magic, being published back in 2014 by Gallimard Jeunesse.
The Book of Pearl is exactly as the title of this post suggest: a masterpiece of a thousand headaches. I really can’t describe this book in another, more precise way. So much happened that it does not cease to amaze me how the author was able to keep up with the overlapping times, characters and even worlds, and then somehow blur the initially disjointed stories together. Even turning the last page I’m at once amazed an in need of an excedrin. I’m just at a loss on how all the characters, events, and worlds, I repeat WORLDS, even happened all in different times but then by the end all became one. I’m not sure if this makes me a lazy reader or if anyone else who has dared read all 300 pages of this feels the same as bimbo Delphine over here.
Good Reads Review: (in French, no translation given):
Il vient d’un monde lointain auquel le nôtre ne croit plus. Son grand amour l’attend là-bas. Aura-t-il assez de toute une vie pour trouver le chemin du retour? Ceux qui l’ont banni sont résolus à l’en empêcher.
Une exaltante aventure embarquant aux sources de l’imaginaire, éblouissante ode à l’amour, à la magie de la mémoire.
Plongez dans un monde de magie à travers trois destins d’enfants. Découvrez une histoire d’amour si puissante qu’elle traverse le temps et l’espace. Un livre magnifique pour adolescents qui ravira tout autant les adultes.
Where can I even start? Not even the story itself begins at the beginning, nor at a place where the reader can really relate. In essence, it’s a fairy tale which I would, in any other circumstance, be thrilled over. It definitely was a fairy tale, with fairies, magic and the impossible becoming possible. However, it was just so scattered. For the first 40%, just about half, of the book I was just kind of sitting back – total passive reader. I felt really disengaged and found it hard to relate to the characters and enter the story world, or in this case, worlds. It took this long for me to really get a grip of what was going on.
The plot though…goodness…the plot! How can I even begin to talk about a a plot that was in another plot, that was in yet another, which was basically the first (
does that even make sense? No? Exactly…) ?! Everything that happens all revolves around a fairy and her love for a prince-never-to-become-king. This was the cutest part of the story, as both suffered and struggled, often risking death and being trapped in the demons of their own mind to find each other again. That was basically what the book was about, in short terms. I like this, but then… but then…. but then… Do I even want to get started on the ‘but then’…?!
Switching from third to first person, switching time periods from WWII in France to freaking goodness knows what time didn’t help the reading experience. I felt like I was being rushed and when I finally felt like I was “getting it” another war or some other character would pop out of nowhere and I would be confused all over again! Even now, writing this review, I’m not sure what I can really even offer the reader other than my sobs, whines and obnoxious cries for help: “what is this?!?!?!”
There is magic. But then there is history. And then there comes the romance. But wait! Someone is after someone who is also after someone else, trying to kill someone in another world. And then there are the objects to help the prince remember what the other world made him forget. Oh. And what about the whole Marshmallow thing going on ? Jacques Perle’s Maison Perle where the young prince walks into his life. Of all the parts of the story, this was perhaps my favorite as it added a sweet, candy land twist to the rest of the drama going on. Marshmallows made with almonds and sweet cream, enough to drive in lust-seeking woman, hard-working laborers, and rebellious troublemakers after school.
The writing was delicate and very thorough. And I do not mean this as a praise. Despite all the worlds and times that this story covered, I never made it into even one. Everything happened quickly and with little room for me to imagine and see what was going on in my mind’s eye. I was just a hopeless outcast with no room for me to even think. I got so irritated at times that I had to just turn my kindle off and eat. Yes, eating brought me back to my sanity thank you very much. If it wasn’t for the comfort of food I probably would have gone berserk and never returned to the story. There were several moments after a pause for binge snacking that I would have to reread the last twenty pages before returning to the place I left off. The story for me was just forgettable. There was so much, just so much that was scattered and didn’t make any sense till the very last sentence. This is not the kind of reader I am.
Despite all these brute criticisms I am going to call The Book of Pearl a masterpiece. For the writer to have been able to keep his mind in check while writing this fairytale-romance-thriller-mystery-history book is beyond me. The writing was, despite being detached was poetic. If this was just a standalone book on language and the beauty of it, I would be all for it and willing to give it a full five stars. But it wasn’t. There was an actual story going on, whatever that was, as I’m still trying to figure it out, three days after turning the last page.
This was definitely an intricate piece of work – perfect for the classroom – for those teachers that just want to dissect the living hell out of every piece of literature out there.This book, with all its literary tactics going on, would be a field day for my AP Literature teacher back in high school. No mistake, it’s a puzzle that needs to pieced together into a clear sequence by a reader with no problem to suffer a headache if a masterpiece is to result. Good luck for those willing to. I’m out. It really is clever how the book masters to draw us in by its promise of magical kingdoms and doomed love, only to send us into a nauseating time machine through different minds, voices and stories.
(Book image credits go to NetGalley)