It must be ten years since I last read a book by Lesley Pearse. I can remember devouring her early books, hot off the press, and I’m not entirely sure why I left her behind. I think it had a lot to do with falling out with large, heavy books – heavy in the handling sense, rather than content – which is very shallow of me. Friends have repeatedly told me how good she is – and I know my mum loves her – so I took the opportunity to read her forthcoming book, Survivor, when it was offered on netgalley (in the Kindle age, no book is too large!). I just can’t believe I neglected her books for so long – this was quite wonderful.
This book might not have been the best place to start – it does follow on from Belle and The Promise, but don’t let that put you off. The heroine of this book is Mariette, the rather spoilt, shallow and headstrong daughter of Belle and her husband, who live at Russell on the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. The small community setting is vividly drawn, the wilful daughter not really fitting in, and after a bit of a scandal she moves to England to live with family friends at the outbreak of World War 2. What follows is an absolutely engrossing story of hardship, treachery, great sadness and immense bravery that has you living in an entirely different world until you turn the last page. It also sees Mariette develop from a spoilt young girl, with nothing much in her head other than her own pleasure, into a worthy heroine that you grow to love and really ache for as she faces every new challenge and setback. I loved the supporting characters too – Belle and her extended family, Peggy at the bakery, the whole family she lives with in England, the male leads like Johnny and Morgan, and the vast cast of east enders enduring the horror of wartime. It’s a quite wonderful story about being forced to grow up in the most painful way, with love and loyalty at its heart.
Lesley Pearse really is a consummate story teller, with a beautiful ease of style, and with every twist and turn of this wonderful book sweeping you along with it. There’s no problem reading this one as a stand-alone – Mariette doesn’t know her mother’s story either – but there were tantalising glimpses that made me really want to catch up with what I’ve missed. I’m so sorry for neglecting you Lesley – I’d really forgotten how superb your books could be, but what a wonderful time I’m going to have catching up.
My thanks to netgalley and Penguin Books UK for my advance reading e-copy. Survivor will be published in hardcover and Kindle editions on February 13th.
Lesley Pearse is one of the UK’s best-loved novelists with fans across the globe and sales of over 2 million copies of her books to date. A true storyteller and a master of gripping storylines that keep the reader hooked from beginning to end, Pearse introduces you to characters that it is impossible not to care about or forget. There is no formula to her books or easily defined genre. Whether crime as in Till We Meet Again, historical adventure like Never Look Back or the passionately emotive Trust Me based on the true-life scandal of British child migrants sent to Australia in the post war period, she engages the reader completely. For more information do have a look at Lesley Pearse’s website: you might also like to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.