The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh was an absolutely brilliant read!
It was my turn to pick the book for my face-to-face book club this month and this was my pick. I received this for Christmas 2018 and thought it was well past time that I read it, it also marks off another #20backlistin2020 books, that’s 2 down 18 to go. This is also my 10th book in the AWW2020 reading challenge.
This could have been just another holocaust novel, but it was very different from any others I’ve read.
We meet Severine/Katerina when she is in London working on secondment at a museum in 1963 and is asked to identify some pearls, this is the start of her journey into remembering the past and seeking revenge and peace in the now.
There are several stories/timelines happening throughout this novel, we have the 1939-1941 timeline, the beginning of the end for Katerina and her family, the start of the war and the murder of thousands of Jewish people. I had never heard of the kindertransport, trains that were to take Jewish children and babies from Germany and the greater Europe to the safety of Britain, being put up in homes until their parents could once again be reunited with them. For the majority, they never saw their families again. How brave and terrified must those families and children have been, saying goodbye to loved ones, knowing it was unlikely they’d never see them again.
At times I found some of the story very hard to read, especially when Severine/Katerina is telling Daniel about what happened to her and her family due to Ruda Mayek, a man she has spent 20 years trying to forget. Ruda Mayek is an evil man, there were so many of them during the war, I guess, there still are, but it seems like Hitler brought out the very worst in people, especially those who weren’t nice to begin with. As Katerina tells Daniel her story, I was transported to the places she remembers, perhaps too clearly at times due to Fiona McIntosh’s ability to describe things in such detail.
The lawyer, Edward Summerbee, who is in charge of the pearls becomes an important character in the novel and whilst not being willing to break his oath to keep his client’s identity a secret, he is able to help Katerina in other ways. I really liked Edward and his determination to keep to his morals as a lawyer, but his determination to also help where he could, even if he took some persuading.
There was plenty of suspense in the hunt for Ruda Mayek and plenty of secrets to uncover throughout the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and must get onto this last year’s Christmas present by the same author, The Diamond Hunter.