Monday, April 18, 2011

Pearl in a cage by Joy Dettman

Pearl in a Cage
Book 1 of the Woody Creek Series
Published by Pan Macmillan
576 pages


On a balmy midsummer's evening in 1923, a young woman – foreign, dishevelled and heavily pregnant – is found unconscious just off the railway tracks in the tiny logging community of Woody Creek.
The town midwife, Gertrude Foote, is roused from her bed when the woman is brought to her door. Try as she might, Gertrude is unable to save her, but the baby lives.
When no relatives come forth to claim the infant, Gertrude's daughter Amber – who has recently lost a son in childbirth – and her husband Norman take the child in. In the ensuing weeks, Norman becomes convinced that God has sent the baby to their door, and in an act of reckless compassion and lonely desperation, he names the baby Jennifer and registers her in place of his son.
Loved by some but scorned by more, including her stepmother and sister, Jenny survives her childhood and grows into an exquisite and talented young woman. But who were her parents?
Spanning two momentous decades and capturing rural Australia's complex and mysterious heart, Pearl in a Cage is the unputdownable new novel by one of our most talented storytellers.

Joy Dettman's novel "Pearl in a cage" has such a pretty cover and title, that the grit and heartbreak revealed inside was a big surprise to me, the reader. I found the writing style was however quite addictive and continued on to read on. Knowing that the author is an Australian and knowing how patriotic I am, I was determined to give the book a go and in the end I was not dissapointed.  
I found the writing in Dettman's book to be extremely honest and of great quality. This book has become the epitome of Australian Historical Fiction for me so far, because what I have read is so true. The fact that the book was written by an australian author and set in Australia also made the story and the characters easy to relate to and while I did tend to favour some characters more than others I found that each character was realistic in the fact that there was something to like and dislike about each one of them. The book had everything you could dream of in a Historical novel and more. There was mystery, lustrous description, a bit of trivia, humour, authenticity and grit. 
To me the book was like a retelling of 'Cinderella' without romance or magic - but I suspect there might be some romance later on in the series. Unlike cinderella, Jenny Morrison's character actually had some fight in her(rather than being a bystander to her own torture) and she had a few points of weakness too. Some of the characters in this book made me so angry, though I do believe that if a book makes you feel something it has been written well.
The complexity of novel also added to the Authenticity. In most novels I find that there is only one or two themes being shown through a story and if the themes are to obvious or simple the novel becomes boring, predictable and lacking in substance. This was however not the case with "Pearl in a cage".  There were so many themes revealed in this novel along side a back story that was slowly revealed about each character, but not in chunks like most novels (thank god), that Woody Creek felt like a real place during the reading of this book.
The ending of the story was unexpected and fitting giving no big hints about the next book, but leaving the reader intrigued nonetheless. I would recomend this story to anyone who likes historical fiction, Stories based in rural Australia or who as a child enjoyed books like "the little princess" or "annie". Becuase of the variety of subject matter this book could be enjoyed by almost anybody. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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