The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden Review

A sweeping family saga of long lost love, for readers of Fiona McIntosh and Mary-Anne O’Connor. 

From Pearl Harbor to the shores of Sydney, a secret that spans generations could unite a family – or destroy it.

Honolulu, Hawaii 1941

On the evening of her sixteenth birthday party, Catherine McGarrie wants nothing more than for the night to be over, even though the opulence of the ballroom befits the daughter of a US Navy Rear Admiral. Then she meets Charlie, a navy officer from the other side of the tracks, a man her parents would never approve of.

As rumours of war threaten their tropical paradise, Catherine and Charlie fall in love. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941 changes their lives forever.

Seventy–five years later, addled by age and painkillers, Catherine tells her granddaughter Kit her story and reveals the tale of a long–lost treasure. Can Kit uncover the secret and reunite her family? Or will the truth tear them apart?

– Synopsis from Harper Collins

Going into this book, I was quite sceptical. Family saga isn’t a genre that I was particularly familiar with, and The Lost Pearl seemed quite different to what I’d usually read. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying many aspects of the book, and though I don’t often find myself attracted to historical reads, I do love a good romance, and The Lost Pearl features multiple romantic story lines. The primary focus is on the relationship between Catherine and Charlie, but we also get a glimpse of a few other love stories, such as Catherine’s older brother Eddie’s courtship with her friend Penny, and in the present day timeline, we see Kit moving on from heartbreak when a mysterious stranger named Adam enters her life. Thus I would definitely recommend this book to romance lovers! The Lost Pearl has cute couples galore and it’s also interesting to note the differences between the present day romances and those set in the 1940’s. While characters such as Catherine, Eddie and Charlie are very concerned with class, status, and the issue of premarital sex, Kit faces none of these problems in 2016, and has much more freedom in her love life.

The historical setting was another aspect of the book I found immensely enjoyable. Madden paints a vivid picture of life in Honolulu in the days leading up to America’s entry into World War 2. Going into this book, I felt I did know at least the basics about the war and how it impacted Australia, but the effect of the Pearl Harbour attack on the people of Hawaii wasn’t something I’d read much about before, thus I was excited to learn more. In The Lost Pearl, we feel the intense anxiety of the adult characters, who know that war is inevitable. We also see how this nervousness trickles down to younger characters such as Penny and Catherine, leading them to make impulsive decisions. Madden also does a great job depicting 1940’s culture and attitudes, as well as creating beautiful imagery of Hawaii.

My only criticism of The Lost Pearl is that the characters and setting of the 1940’s story line felt much more real and fully formed than those of the present day. Catherine, her parents, Penny, Charlie, and even his rival Walter all seemed much more well rounded than Kit or her family. At no point in the book did I feel like I really knew a lot about Kit, except that she was close to her grandmother and that she was recovering from heartbreak. As such, I didn’t quite understand why uncovering her grandmother’s past was so important to her. In her quest to discover the titular “lost pearl”, Kit is willing to put her whole life on hold and travel to Hawaii, which seemed quite drastic. Though I liked Kit, I wish I had learned more about her and her motivations.

Ultimately though, The Lost Pearl was an enjoyable read that I would recommend to those who love The Notebook, stories of epic romances, and 1940’s settings. Thank you to Harlequin Books for providing me with a review copy!

My rating:

four stars

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