"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein---a review and Book Beginnings quote

The year is 1938, right before the outbreak of WWII. The setting is an estate near Perth, Scotland, which is a bit northwest of Edinburgh. The main character is Julie Beaufort-Stuart, the fifteen year old granddaughter of the Earl of Strathfearn. Julie is home from school on a summer holiday to help her mother and grandmother close-up the estate after her grandfather's death. It will be her last summer on the estate and she wants to make the most of it. But the very first day she is home, while idling alongside the river which meanders near the estate, Julie is clobbered over the head and left for dead. If not for the assistance of some Travellers, camping on the estate with prearranged permission, Julie might very well have died. Because no one knew her identity, Julie was treated very poorly at the hospital, showing the level of prejudice against Travellers in the community at large. Eventually Julie regains consciousness and she is returned to her family, but she has no memory of her attacker or the circumstances leading up to being bludgeoned. In an oddly coincidental turn, just as Julie is returned home, the archivist working on her grandfather's estate disappears. Everyone fears that he is dead.

Thus begins a story which is part murder mystery and part coming-of-age tale. Julie and her brother Jamie meet and befriend the twins, Travellers who saved her life, Ellen and Euan. They all work to prove to the police that the twins did not murder the archivist and attempt to murder Julie. In the process they uncover a mystery which involves river pearls from the Earl's estate, pearls which can be traced back to Mary Queen of Scots.

In case you think you recognize the name Julie Beaufort-Stuart, if you read Code Name Verity, a Printz Honor book published in 2012, she was the protagonist of that book who was working as a British spy and was captured by the Nazis. The Pearl Thief is considered a prequel of Code Name Verity, but it very easily reads as a stand alone, though we do see the beginnings of Julie's skills as a first rate snoop and the makings of a spy. It is a very different book from CNV, in a lot of ways I liked it better, and that is saying a lot. In The Pearl Thief we meet a girl who is just coming into her own. She is trying to figure out issues related to friendship and prejudice, class and privilege, sexuality and manipulation. In a lot of ways Julie is an unreliable narrator but as she learns things, we do too. I loved her voice and seeing things through her eyes. The climax, which comes very late in the story, was a shocker to me, one I didn't see coming at all. Amal El-Mohtar, writing a review of PT for NPR said this about the two books, "It's an enormously different book from Code Name Verity — but across time, space, and genres, they slip off their gloves and hold hands." Isn't that a lovely description?

In the notes at the end of the book, Elizabeth Wein explains the research she conducted for this book centering on two unknown issues to me: the lives of Travellers (gypsies) and the difficulties that have befallen them since modern technology has altered the way people live today; and the plight of the river mussels, the makers of the beautiful river pearls. Pollution and population growth have led to a situation most dire and now the few remaining mussels are protected against harvesting and it is illegal to sell the pearls, even ones that have been in families for years. I enjoy learning something new when I read a book and The Pearl Thief sure fit that bill. Plus, and this is always a bonus for me, the book was filled with poetry, especially poems by the famous Scots poet, Robert Burns. Loved it!

Book Beginnings quote:
'You're a brave lassie.' That was what my grandfather told me as he gave me his shotgun.
Friday 56 quote:
And then among the piles of paper on the desk I was startled to see something I recognized.
Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Rating: 4.5 stars
Edition: Print
Challenge: Read Books from Your TBR pile, Sept. 11-24.
Mock Printz recommendation: Yes


  1. This book sounds right up my alley!!

    1. Even though it is YA, I think that adults will like it better. I was captivated.

  2. Oh yes, mine, too! I've never held a gun lol

    Here is mine http://bit.ly/2vX9rVO

    I didn't play last week as my laptop died. Like Dr Who - it's now regenerated lol

    Luv Sassy

    1. Oh good. Glad to hear that your laptop is like Dr. Who. We are behind the times here in the US and he hasn't turned into a she yet, though we know it is coming.

  3. My grandfather and I never had that tender passing of the shotgun moment. ;-) I'd love for you and your readers to check out mine. . . http://tinyurl.com/LisaKsBookReviewsSOD

    1. My grandfather never shared a shotgun with me either but the point, which comes around over and over is that Julie IS a brave girl.

  4. Sounds interesting. I'll be adding it to my wishlist. I'm featuring Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris this week. Happy reading!

  5. Oh, I wonder what she saw among the papers! I want to know more. Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog.

  6. Hi Anne,

    I can't believe the number of positive reviews this book has received, it has to be heading for my own list.

    I am wondering just what she saw on the desk, but even more worrying is why she needs a gun and to be brave - perhaps this is a series I need to engage with right from the start?

    Thanks for sharing and have a good weekend cuddling the new arrival :)


  7. hmmm... I wonder what she saw in those papers...

    Here’s my Friday 56!

    Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog

  8. This sounds so good and I love books set during this era. Such an intriguing cover too. And I'm wondering what's in those papers. I'd sure keep reading.

    My Friday 56 for From The Grave

  9. I don't know why I've been putting this off - gotta try it! :)

    Lauren @ Always Me

  10. I really like the beginning excerpt for this one and I really enjoyed her previous work Code Name Verity. Glad to see you enjoyed this one. Happy Friday!

  11. I like that beginning. I wonder what she has to do with the shotgun...

  12. Oh, this one sounds good. Code Name Verity was enjoyable so I am sure I'd like this one as well.

  13. Sounds like a wonderful read! Have a great week ahead!


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