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Book Review: The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden

From Pearl Harbour to Sydney, a forgotten secret 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?

Published in 2018 by Mira (imprint of Harper & Collins.)


I purchased this book at the 2019 Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference (HNSA). I’d heard Emily Madden talk about her novel at the Intertwining Lives Revealed: the mystery in parallel narratives discussion. One of the points about the discussion, and particularly with The Lost Pearl was the complexity of writing from multiple viewpoints. I’d already bought a

number of books, but I really wanted to see how Emily had managed it by reading the end product.

I’m happy to say that she managed that very well. And, if you like family sagas that cross timelines and hemispheres, and are filled with well researched history, you will enjoy The Lost Pearl. Emily Madden shares with us the stories of Catherine McGarrie, Charlie Florio, and Kit Bennet.

All three are shaped by Hawaii and the tragedy of Pearl Harbour, the impact of which is still being felt many decades into the future. A deeply buried family secret comes to the fore in Sydney, Australia, 75 years after the events of 7 December 1941, a secret that sends Kit on the hunt to discover the truth about her grandmother, Catherine, and the mysterious, Charlie.

I enjoyed Maddens writing style and excellent ability to weave an intricate story. It is both informative in regard to the historical context and page turning when it comes to revealing the twists and turns each of the characters take throughout their lives. Her sharing of civilian life in Hawaii as well as naval is balanced, detailed and draws you right into that time and place.

The second level characters also have interesting stories that are woven through the tale of Catherine, Charlie, and Kit adding to the depth of storytelling: all set around a moment of history that will never be forgotten.

With all of the tragic news being blasted over the television, radio and internet over the last few months: severe drought and heat conditions,raging bushfires, and the global pandemic, over the last few months I haven’t felt a lot like reading. I’m certainly glad I persisted past my reading block. The Lost Pearl provided an enjoyable escape from everything else going on in the world.


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