Title: The Forgotten Pearl
Author: Belinda Murrell
Genre: Children’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: 2nd February 2015
Synopsis: When Chloe visits her grandmother, she learns how close the Second World War came to destroying her family. Could the experiences of another time help Chloe to face her own problems?
In 1941, Poppy lives in Darwin, a peaceful paradise far from the war. But when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, then Australia, everything Poppy holds dear is threatened – her family, her neighbours, her friends and her beloved pets. Her brother Edward is taken prisoner-of-war. Her home town becomes a war zone, as the Japanese raid over and over again.
Terrified for their lives, Poppy and her mother flee to Sydney, only to find that the danger follows them there. Poppy must face her war with courage and determination. Will her world ever be the same again?
In the two days it took me to read this, I was completely absorbed by the story, day and night, even when not reading it. Starting out in 2012 with Chloe, a young girl talking to her grandmother about an assignment, readers are whisked back to 1940s Australia in the days before the war hits our shores. The peace and carefree life Poppy lives is shattered like glass, and she runs from Darwin to Sydney with her mother, where the fear remains but for a while they are safe. When the threat of war and death follows them, Poppy’s world falls apart again, but her strength and resolve to not let the Japanese chase her away from her new life, and what she knows wins over.
From the first page of this book, I knew it would be one that would stay with me but I didn’t know how it would affect me. Having a brother in the army, and with what is currently going on in the world, suddenly, the reality of war, of what Poppy and her family went through, what she told Chloe, seemed all that more real to me than just images on the television and talks of air raids and strikes and invasions. I found myself crying at times, sometimes having to put the book aside. Poppy’s fear and life had become my own and I was dreaming about the book, about the bombing of Darwin, about finding Daisy and Charlie dead in the bomb shelter. Previously all I had known about these events were the facts: the history books I had had never put a human face to these events. Until I read Belinda Murrell’s The Forgotten Pearl. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as I have her other time slip books, with one left on the pile to make my way through. I could taste and feel Darwin as well. The heat, the stickiness, the mangoes, and all Poppy’s animals leapt off the page into my arms, especially Honey, her beloved dog. She made me feel safe just as she comforted Poppy.
It is a fictionalised account of very real, and terrifying events as seen through the eyes of a child. Children can relate to Poppy, and her fear for her family, her pets and all she holds dear. She is a remarkable character and I will definitely be revisiting this book when time allows. It has a part of me in it now, and always will. I will not stop fearing for Poppy and her family, or my brother, when I read it or think about what wars my brother could face, but it will be a book that will help me through those moments, as many books have and will.
A five star rating for this book.