BOOK CLUB: Jewel Sea

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Jewel Sea by Kim Kelly is a historical tale that entwines three tales into one relatively short story, I hadn’t checked it out completely so wasn’t expecting it to end quite as soon as it did.

Another thing I didn’t realise going in is that this story is based on the actual disappearance of the SS Koombana in a cyclone, that may well be where the basis ends but still an interesting point to note.

Irene Everley is a young woman dreaming of more out of life than is generally expected from a woman of her class at that time. She’s not happy to just find a husband, sit at home and breed. Irene wants to travel, and write and have a career but she’s not quite sure how to begin pursuing those dreams.

She’s on her way to the family property in the Kimberley with her long-time friend and assistant Marg. We learn a lot about Irene and the behaviour she engages in that is completely unbecoming of a young woman of her class but I thought was really quite natural.

Irene is just one of our main characters, and some of the secondary characters actually play quite a major role in the culmination of the story. Jewel Sea brings together a cast of characters that are not all that they seem, we learn about their public and their private personas as all of the threads are woven together in an intriguing story of a time long since past.


I found it quite difficult to get immersed in the story, it seemed to be quite a slow build up but I’m having the same issue getting involved in the next one so perhaps it’s just me at the moment.

Jewel Sea is an intriguing tale in that one of the characters is not human but has a voice and a personality and emotion, it was interesting to follow the unfolding of that thread and see where it led.

Greed, theft, betrayal and fraud were as prevalent in 1912 as they are now and revenge was still satisfying, though sometimes hard to stomach.

You will be entranced by the way all the strands of this story come together, and the significance of pearls to so many of the major players in our story.

Jewel Sea is book #46 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.

Thanks to The Author People 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Jewel Sea so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I look forward to hearing what our readers think.

11 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Jewel Sea

  1. Well this book arrived yesterday, and I too have literally been reading, and reading. The whole story to me revolves around Pearls, in fact one pearl and how the pearl feels about being taken out of its environment, and brought onto land…. heart wrenching it is for the pearl, and I can understand how it must feel to be taken from its natural habitat… The story also revolves around other characters, and they are intertwined with one another on the boat, and how each and every one of them is portrayed is wonderful to read. Did not know about this part of w.a. history, in fact this is the first time I have heard about such a boat.. No doubt somewhere the fish have turned it into a wonderful cubby hole to swim in and out of and to breed in there as well. Each character in this book has a part to play, both by itself, in the story of that person”s background, and how they come to life with another person on the boat…. Having done a few cruises up our w.a. coast as far as singapore, I think I follow the feelings of one and all….. Now I know it really has nothing to do with this s tory, but my granddaughter to be married next week loves pearls, and her engagement ring is a large pearl set in a gold circle… I have given her some small pearls in a pendant that she could take to pieces and sew on her frock or glue to her shoes as an extra.. so to me the p earl has significent relationship to read about as well… recommend it and the author, who has certainly created a story that is unusual as well as heart rending… (for the pearl) I shall pass on the book, when granddaughter is in school holidays, as she is a teacher, and I am sure will enjoy it, like I have done…

  2. adding a bit to the aabove… Have gone back again to the last five chapters and re-read it, as could not quite work it out, but I have now… The boat is smashed too bits, and all aboard are evidently drowned, but the story then goes on to unfold about the two main characters, both man and woman, and of their love or lust? for one another, we all can do with company in our life, and how they do meet up again and …. share life together once more… but this time as a family… shall see what I can find out about the doomed boat, (like the titanic… which now is giving up parts of itself I believe)… I enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to more by thesame author… she has taken an item and made a story about it mainly, so must check on that and see if there was such an item and believe it or not I was always brought up to believe that pearls were bad luck, so perhaps this is where the original idea for the story stemmed from?

  3. Jewel Sea by Kim Kelly.
    I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Australian History and unlikely romances!
    Kim has taken a true event, the sinking of the SS Koombana in a cyclone near Port Hedland off of the Wester Australian coast in 1912. and added fictional characters to the characters from the passenger list to create the story. She portrays the Australia of that time with the class division, those with money and those without, the morals of the time, and the issue of should a woman from a wealthy family work?
    There is a love story with twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep you reading!
    The book is narrated by 3 main characters.
    Irene Everley, the daughter of a self made wealthy cattle baron out from Derby.
    Fin, a handsome man with a past, trying to escape Australia.
    Miya, the Pearl who is cleverly used to narrate the history of the Pearling Industry in Broome. It is one of desire , greed and theft to acquire that one amazing pearl with which to make one’s fortune! The book highlights the unfair treatment of Indigenous Australians and the divers brought from the Philipines to work in the industry.
    It is a thin book, and a lot of history and romance is packed into it’s 168 pages!
    The Authors Note concludes with “to all those lost souls on the Koombana, I hope in some small way I have helped to keep your story alive.” She has succeeded in that as I have googled this event to learn more! She also mentions which I recommend to anyone who has early Australian heritage as we have used this government site and found our own ” interesting ” family members! This is not Kim Kelly’s only book, she has written 4 others classed as historical/ fiction. Can’t wait to read them and luckily my local Library has them all!

  4. It is not till the end of this book that I learnt from the author that the story is based upon the true events of the SS Koombana which disappeared in a cyclone in 1912 near Port Headland, W.A.

    I have to admit that I did find it hard to actually immerse myself in the 1st couple of chapters so much so that I found myself reverting back to a few pages before to reread again.

    It took me a while to realise a character in the book is not in human form and I guess this is where I was a bit confused and my concentration levels were not working well.

    Once you keep reading though, the storyline compels you to read more. I found as I kept reading I became aware of other characters within the book especially a young woman called Irene who just wants to be different to other women in that she wants to be a career lady who travels and writes. Fin is another character that I found interesting as well.

    Within this novel I learnt a bit about the pearling industry which I was not really aware about in how they are born and bred.

    I would say to readers that perhaps it would be good to definitely find a quiet place to read this book. I read it in a day as it is only a small book.

    Something I never do is read the back of the book but am suggesting that perhaps for this book to read the Author’s note at the end of the story. Had I of read it, I would have had a better understanding of what I was reading.

    I was saddened at the end as I was not expecting that to happen.

  5. I really enjoyed Jewel Sea – a great read and magical journey. Kim Kelly had me intrigued it was a great story. I liked the mix fiction with historical facts it was fascinating. Her writing style is captivating and I liked the two aspects – the precious pearl and the ship with its passengers. It was a beautiful and surprising story – different but one I enjoyed

  6. I love Kim Kelly’s The Blue Mile and Paper Daisies and was really looking forward to reading the Jewel Sea and it didn’t disappoint. It is a wonderful story that entwines historical facts of the disappearance of luxury steamship the SS Koombana off the WA coast in 1912 with fantastic fiction.

    A precious cursed pearl with powers, two lovers; Irene and Fin, the ship SS Koombana and its passengers are all drawn together to make for a really interesting tale.

    The story is told through three main characters Miya, the cursed pearl who has a ‘real’ personality; Irene, a rich cattleman’s daughter who was looking for more in life than marriage and is portrayed as a strong independent woman and Fin, a man with a history and who is on the run from the police.

    I don’t want to give to much away but true to life the ship does go down in a cyclone and disappears as in history but what of all the passengers on the ship. You will have to read the book to find out their fate.

    The Jewel Sea is a short read only 168 pages but what a tale is told. I couldn’t put the book down and highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good story that weaves intrigue, greed, betrayal and love.
    Can’t wait for the next Kim Kelly book.

  7. Right from the beginning this book is different. I was initially a little worried about the number of pages of this book as normally this would indicate that the story would be shallow and lacking depth of characters and plot – boy was I wrong! In such a short book there is adventure, love, loss, great character development, story line and history!

    The story of the ‘pearl’ is heart wrenching and gripping and despite its size, you come to see this pearl as a big part of the story, the way it affects those around it, drawing them in and then ……. (no spoilers here)!

    One of the best parts of the book was the ending, not your typical ending nor one that you expected (so refreshing these days)!

    I did find myself having to reread some sections again as on first reading I had interpreted things differently to what was actually written but this is probably more to do with the speed that I read than the actual writing of the book.

    All in all, a great read, but a short read.

  8. When i received the Jewel Sea i wasnt sure that i had it right, rather thinner than the ysual books.

    If wasnt until i reached the middle of the story that it started to make sense to me and become entwined. While a “short story” the writer was no less descriptive or left any relevant details out. I did struggle at the beginning but the further into the story the faster and more intriguing the whirlwind that is the Jewel sea became. It wasnt until i finished that i sat back and realised that i actually did enjoy the book. It didnt make any difference that it was based on a true story, although that made it Interesting, one to make you Think about what you are reading and put it together. Thank you Kim Kelly

  9. Kim Kelly has such a unique style of writing and Jewel Sea is like nothing else I’ve read before. Writing one of the main characters from the perspective of a Pearl was intriguing. I liked the love between Fin and Irene.
    Now in saying this I couldn’t get into this book, I struggled to get attached to the characters and found myself getting distracted easily….in saying this I have 3 children and my baby hasn’t been sleeping well so maybe this is why.
    The ending I liked but felt when I finally started to get into it it ended.
    I liked that it was based on a true story and one I’ve only heard of briefly so know basically nothing about and now look forward to researching further.

    Thanks Beauty & Lace 🙂

  10. As a West Australian born and bred, it was a little disheartening to discover I had absolutely no prior knowledge of a fascinating slice of history that took place off the coast of WA in 1912. Established Australian author Kim Kelly majestically brings to life the ill fated tale of the luxury steamship SS Koombana, which was lost in a cyclone in her book, Jewel Sea. Carefully combining historical fact with fiction, Kelly manages to weave an intriguing tale of love, betrayal, greed and disaster. I wish to thank Kim Kelly for drawing my attention to this important piece of Western Australia’s history.

    Jewel Sea is a book that is told in multiple voices that is comprised of the various passengers aboard the SS Koombana. These points of view are diverse but they work in harmony, joining together to provide an overall picture of the doomed steamship. Kelly uses these voices to explore powerful themes of class and relationships. Characters a true strength in Jewel Sea. One such character, Irene, stood out from the pack, her tale was simply unforgettable. Equally mesmerising and wonderfully creative was the device of giving a pearl, the main crux of the story, a distinct voice. I admire Kelly for inserting this into her narrative, as it gave Jewel Sea another layer of the story to unlock. For those who enjoy something outside the box, Jewel Sea does take on a little of the magical.
    The device of using a mystical pearl in a narrative thread provided me with the opportunity to suspend some realism, which I enjoyed immensely.

    Readers will find Jewel Sea very well researched and the writing polished. The narrative is breathtaking and the characters are well drawn. I read this book in just two sittings, which is testament to my unwillingness to put the book down. The author note contained at the close of the novel is compelling and should not be overlooked, it definitely added a little extra to my reading experience of this novel. Jewel Sea marks my third experience reading the talented works of Kim Kelly. She is an author I know I can trust to write colourful stories, highlighting Australia’s rich heritage. I would highly recommend Jewel Sea to all readers.
    *With thanks to Beauty and Lace for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes.

  11. Jewel Sea starts off slowly. I struggled a little until I had read a few pages. Initially I did not realise that part of the narrative is told by Miya (the pearl)
    This is a short book and tells of 3 people and the impact that Miya has on them.
    It is set on board the steamship Koombana. In the early 1900’s This steamship was actually lost during a cyclone.
    This is a very colorful book, 3 people with secrets and one thing in common

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