'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 22 June 2012

Review: The Forgotten Pearl

For a school assignment, Chloe needs to interview someone about the Second World War. Her mother suggests she chat with her grandmother (Poppy), but Chloe doesn't think that is a good idea. After all, what would her grandmother have to tell her about the war? Didn't everything happen overseas, far away from Chloe's grandmother and her family?

What follows is 'a story about friendship and sisters, about grief and love and danger, and about growing up...' shared through Poppy's memories and a collection letters.

As Poppy shares her story with Chloe, she paints a picture of life in Darwin in the early 40s - checking creeks for crocodiles before swimming, climbing mango trees for an afternoon snack, humidity and a wonderful sense of community. Friendships and wide open spaces and warm memories of being surrounded by loving family and friends.

Poppy's idyllic childhood comes to an end as the threat of a Japanese invasion and then subsequent bombing raids on Darwin cause panic, mayhem and frantic evacuations to 'safer' southern cities like Adelaide and Sydney.

Belinda Murrell weaves an amazing amount of information through Poppy's story, contrasting images of the laid-back tropical lifestyle with descriptions of the panic, fear and grief brought about by the numerous bombing raids on Darwin.

Young readers will no doubt be fascinated by accounts of food, clothing and fuel rationing as well as details of everyday meals, schooling, clothing and family life. The Forgotten Pearl is more than an account of the war, it is a series of snapshots of Australian life 70 years ago.

I love Poppy's story. Her relationship with her parents, sisters, brother and friends creates a wonderful background to the information about the war. The letters make it possible to share a wide range of experiences and Poppy's friendships bring a range of family backgrounds into the mix as well.

While many readers will simply enjoy the fascinating story, those with a particular interest in history will find the range of lifestyle, cultural and historical references add another level of enjoyment to the novel. There is a brief information section at the end of the book and teacher's notes are available for those interested in thinking more deeply about the information in the novel. I know that I have a list of references that I am looking forward to researching.

Title:  The Forgotten Pearl
Author:  Belinda Murrell
Publisher: Random House, $15.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1st June 2012
Format:  Paperback
ISBN: 9781742753690
For ages: 10+ years
Type: Junior Fiction