Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: Pearl by Deirdre Purcell

Publisher: Headline, 2010

In 1920s' rural Ireland, Pearl Somers lives happily with her parents, her sisters Opal and Ruby, and her little brother Willie, in the gate lodge of Kilnashone Castle, where her father is chauffeur to Lord and Lady Areton. But one dreadful night, a series of dramatic events unfold and the lives of all — elite and ordinary — are changed forever. Over 40 years later, Pearl has become a successful writer. Yet there is one story she has never told, until her young cousin Catherine confesses a secret of her own that opens a door to Pearl's past — one she thought had been firmly sealed forever. When Catherine discovers Pearl's story of heartbreak and yearning, she determines to do her best to reconcile past and present. But is it too late for Pearl to find her own happy ending?

Deirdre Purcell's inspiration for this novel came from her own family history: her grandparents who lived in the gatehouse of Durrow Castle and her mother and aunt who left rural Ireland to work in the bright lights of Dublin.

Covering the fifty years 1920-70 the background of the book gives a glimpse of the changing social attitudes in Ireland. Pearl and her siblings are raised to 'know their place' and appreciate the privilege of working for the gentry but it left them in a no man's land " neither elevated above the village nor of it"  , regarded as servants by the castle folk , resented and disliked by the villagers for working for the hated English gentry.
Pearl and her sister Opal would both take the opportunity to escape this sort of future and leave to make their lives in Dublin.
Forty years later the sisters are living together and enjoying the frequent company of their cousin's granddaughter, Catherine, an independent , educated young woman of the 60's thrilling the elderly ladies with her tales of life at an American college.

The narrative switches between these three women and the author has given each a very distinct personality and it's not hard to feel you know them or to share their joys and sorrows. Overall it's focus is Pearl's epic and poignant love story - not my usual choice of subject (I thought it was HF) but I did enjoy it. It's well written, has beautifully defined characters and makes pleasant and relaxing reading.

What's In A Name Challenge 4 ( book with jewellery or gem in the title)


  1. I enjoy novels narrated from multiple perspectives, and this sounds quite good. I love the fact that the author drew on her own family history.

  2. Hi Cat,

    I found this post from your link on the 'What's In A Name' challenge site.

    It is always good to 'meet' new folks and I love the site, so became an instant follower.

    I can't believe how you are making time to fit in all those challenges, my eyes were popping out of my head, as the list went on and on. You have my admiration, I am just not able to read that fast!!

    I have only ever read one of Deirdre Purcell's books, 'Falling For A Dancer' and I just couldn't make my mind up about it. As you comment, they do make nice comfortable reads, but I need to read more of her work to form any firm opinion about the quality of her writing. Having said that, my book was one of her earliest pieces.

    'Pearl' may be a good place to start exploring her further, as you seemed to enjoy it, so thanks for the recommendation.

    My entry in this category of the challenge, is: