Author: Eliza Henry Jones
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Eliza Henry Jones is a young Australian author who has been featured on Beauty and Lace book club lists since her debut in 2015 and I’m sure will continue to be featured as long as I can swing it. P is for Pearl is her third novel and the first for the young adult market.
P is for Pearl is the third published novel by Jones but this is a story that she wrote much earlier and never submitted, it was tucked away until years later when she gave the manuscript drawer another read through. Originally written by a sixteen year old I think the voice will resonate with younger readers but I think there is also a lot to enjoy in the sensitively written story for readers of all ages.
Gwendolyn P. Pearson has been through a lot in her seventeen years but she’s mastered the art of just getting on with it. She lives in a small coastal Tasmanian town where everyone knows the history of her family and she’s used to it. We meet Gwendolyn while she’s working a shfit at the local café one night, the night the windows get broken and all her memories start to return.
The story is told in the first person by Gwendolyn and includes her diary entries scattered between chapters. It took me a while to get my head around the diary entries, for a while I thought they were old entries but I think it was more that they are current entries in which Gwendolyn is capturing her memories and her dreams of the past.
There is so very much to love and to say about this book and it’s late and I’m tired and I have no idea where to start. I love the way that it all unfolded and we slowly learned all the pieces of the puzzle, and in the end it really was a puzzle, and it all came together just beautifully except that when I think about it I still have one big question that was left unanswered, or maybe it wasn’t…
I love the way that Gwendolyn has this picture in her head of the way things were through her childhood eyes and as she gets older and experiences more, and learns more the reader starts to see a different picture than the one she’s holding onto yet Gwendolyn refuses to budge from what’s in her mind’s eye. The blurbs for this one are all pretty ambiguous so I want to be careful not to say too much.
P is for Pearl is an insightful and sensitive look at grief, of the way in which it hits in waves that ripple through the years and sometimes when you least expect it the tide will crest and the wave that hits is much larger than expected, a wave that brings back all you have closed yourself off from and opens doors to memories you didn’t know you had forgotten. The association game that plays out in your head and your heart is one that can’t always be predicted and sometimes the perspective of time will paint your memories in a completely different light.
The story touches on so many aspects of adolescent life from school yard issues, blended families, love, loss, crushes, friendship and the intricate minefield of sibling relationships – both blood and by marriage.
There were a few interesting relationships to watch in P is for Pearl but I think the one I enjoyed the most was between Gwendolyn and her older stepbrother Tyrone. They share a very antagonistic relationship which they both see to thrive on but when times are the toughest there is a completely different side of this story to be seen.
Grief played a big part in this story, and the way in which time changes perspective but there is also that element of a slowly unfolding extra element to the story which culminated in a much bigger picture than the one Gwendolyn grew up with.
Jones explores grief, mental illness, loss and love in a voice that is tender and sensitive while also encompassing echoes of there being something more, something intangible to hold onto when it seems that everything has slipped away.
Themes of grief run through all of Jones’s novels to date and she writes them so beautifully, always with a note of hope that things will one day be better. She certainly knows how to tug the heartstrings and not always with heartbreak but sometimes with empathy, with a ray of hope for happiness to return and with contentment that peace is within reach.
P is for Pearl is a story that I really enjoyed, and I think it is definitely worth a read for younger audiences. The Harper website says from 14 years and I can think of a few in the age group that might enjoy it. I think this will appeal to a wide range of readers and I look forward to hearing what our readers think.
P is for Pearl is book #10 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.