25 September 2023

The Lost Pearl

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Emily Madden, Mira, $29.99.

If you are in the mood to become immersed in family secrets and romance, then look no further than this absorbing set piece that merges history and nostalgia with contemporary fiction.

Reminiscing is wonderful as you step back in time. This sweeping historical saga – set in 1940s Hawaii and Sydney – has a secret that spans generations.

Catherine (Kitty) McGarrie wanted nothing more than her 16th birthday party to come to an end, even though the opulence of the ballroom befitted the daughter of a US Navy Rear Admiral. Then she met navy officer Charlie Florio, a man her parents would never approve of. Catherine and Charlie fall in love, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 changed their lives forever.

Fast forward 75 years later … addled by age and painkillers, Catherine tells her granddaughter Kit her story and reveals the tale of a long-lost treasure.

Madden sets the scene beautifully. She gives us an excellent feel for the laid-back, idyllic way of life in Hawaii, preceding the Pearl Harbor bombing. She outlines the sense of possible danger and how the people of Hawaii were on edge, but some still reacted by throwing caution to the wind.

It’s obvious that Madden has spent a lot of time on research. Her dedication shows in the attention to detail. Awareness is placed of the divisions in race, status and class being prevalent in the 1940s. Another point to note is the lack of freedom experienced by young women.

Multiple timeframe narrative sees Catherine in the ‘past’ and her granddaughter Kit ‘in the present’.

The passion of forbidden love and the devastation of war across generations in this poignant tale is heart-wrenching, but ultimately uplifting.

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