Book Review: The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

The Pearl Sister (The Seven Sisters series – Book 4)

About the Book:

CeCe D’Aplièse has never felt she fitted in anywhere. Following the death of her father, the elusive billionaire Pa Salt – so-called by the six daughters he adopted from around the globe and named after the Seven Sisters star cluster – she finds herself at breaking point. Dropping out of art college, CeCe watches as Star, her beloved sister, distances herself to follow her new love, leaving her completely alone.

In desperation, she decides to flee England and discover her past; the only clues she as are a black-and-white photograph and the name of a woman pioneer who lived in Australia over one hundred years ago. En-route to Sydney, CeCe heads to the one place she has ever felt close to being herself: the stunning beaches of Krabi, Thailand. There amongst the backpackers, she meets the mysterious Ace, a man as lonely as she is and whom she subsequently realizes, has a secret to hide…

A hundred years earlier, Kitty McBride, daughter of an Edinburgh clergyman, is given the opportunity to travel to Australia as the companion of the wealthy Mrs McCrombie. In Adelaide, her fate becomes entwined with Mrs McCrombie’s family, including the identical, yet very different, twin brothers: impetuous Drummond, and ambitious Andrew, the heir to a pearling fortune.

When CeCe finally reaches the searing heat and dusty plains of the Red Centre of Australia, she begins the search for her past. As something deep within her responds to the energy of the area and the ancient culture of the Aboriginal people, her creativity reawakens once more. With help from those she meets on her journey, CeCe begins to believe that this wild, vast continent could offer her something she never thought possible: a sense of belonging, and a home…

My Thoughts:

From the very first book in this epic series, I have absolutely loved the stories that Lucinda Riley is weaving about these sisters who are journeying deep into their pasts in order to uncover their true identities. A sweeping blend of historical and contemporary fiction, they have been set so far in some truly amazing locations, all brought vividly to life by Lucinda’s atmospheric prose. But then I got to book four, and two things stopped me from cracking the spine on the next instalment the minute it hit my hands: it was about CeCe, a sister I had grown to loathe throughout the course of the third book, and it was set in Australia, where I live, which made me slightly uncomfortable for reasons I will go into below.

I finally decided to read this, mainly because book five is out soon and I knew I’d be kicking myself if I had to delay reading it because I hadn’t yet read book four. By the time I had finished the first chapter of The Pearl Sister, I fully acknowledged that I am a fool and I should have just placed my faith in Lucinda months ago and read the darned book as soon at it came out!

I loved The Pearl Sister, quite possibly more than the previous three instalments in this series, although really, they are all so wonderfully unique and each of them has kept me completely enthralled for their 700 pages. But with The Pearl Sister, it caught me by surprise, maybe because my expectations had been off about it on account of my misplaced preconceived notions. In The Shadow Sister, CeCe was so annoying, bordering on strange with her unhealthy obsession with her sister Star and her petty clingy jealousies. Yet, CeCe from her own perspective was an entirely different being to CeCe from Star’s perspective. Whether this was intentional or CeCe simply evolved more once she had her own book, I’m not sure, but while there was the occasional episode of self-flagellation from her, generally, she didn’t bother me at all like she had in The Shadow Sister. In fact, I became rather protective in my feelings about her. So, my first hurdle was overcome.

My second hesitation revolved around the setting, being right here in my home of Australia, and in the outback too, which is where I live. I think my problem here stemmed from the fact that Lucinda is not Australian herself, so what was she doing writing a story about our history, and more to the point, why was she writing about our first people. There is much debate going on about cultural appropriation at present, and here was a white, non-Australian Irish author writing a story about an aboriginal woman who had been adopted by a rich white man from Switzerland, removed from her homeland and her culture, finally making the journey to Australia to search out her family story. I was nervous. I really was. And in the beginning, I was also uncomfortable, because Lucinda was very clearly telling this story with an authentic voice, and there’s something unsettling about a non-Australian author delivering historical truths about your country’s shameful history. I have a habit though of reading the author notes at the end first, before I even begin a book. It’s a part of my ‘getting to know the book I’m about to read’ routine. The respect Lucinda shows aboriginal culture and the level of primary research she undertook while writing this book was quite extensive. It didn’t take me long to get over my bug-bear. There is a beautiful sense of spirituality infused throughout this story; it was deeply moving and I appreciated Lucinda’s caretaking of the stories that had been shared with her along her research journey. I also feel she excelled in her showcasing of our magnificent Australian outback in all its unforgiving glory. It might seem strange to those who don’t live out here, but there is a beauty to the outback that is wholly unique. And with that, my second hurdle was well and truly dispensed with.

Lucinda crafts truly amazing characters within this series. Utterly unique, authentic voices that come to life on the page and breathe magic into her story. Camira was a particular favourite of mine. She was utterly gorgeous, so funny and brave, so beautifully devoted to her family, and to Kitty, who had shown faith in her when she was at her lowest point. Kitty herself was divine, a true pioneering woman, and I could see a wonderful symmetry between her and CeCe in terms of their capacity to care about others. I do enjoy stories set in Broome during the pearling hey-days, so there was much to recommend these historical sections to me. The hardship, the love and loss; Lucinda’s characters work hard for their happy endings, but it’s worth every bend in the road she steers us around. The very best parts of this story though come from CeCe connecting with her family, that coming home and knowing that she was exactly where she needed to be for everything in her life to fall into place. And Chrissy, who was an absolute darling right from her first ‘g’day’. You don’t pass up a friend like Chrissy if she comes your way. While the ending to The Pearl Sister was quite perfect, I could have happily kept reading on, it was that good. Anyone who has an interest in Australian historical fiction will love this book. It covers a lot of years, a lot of history spanning from Broome to Alice Springs via Adelaide, and has a deeply spiritual undercurrent that inspires respect and often reverence. Difficult to capture on the page, but remarkably so, Lucinda has achieved it.

As is her way, Lucinda ends one sister’s story by introducing the next, but this time she’s thrown us a real cliff-hanger. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea that I sat on this book for a few months after all! Less time to wait until November. If you haven’t thrown your cap into the ring with this series yet, I urge you to do so. It’s magnificent. And this latest instalment, The Pearl Sister, shines with luminous perfection.


About the Author:

Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland, and after an early career as an actress in film, theatre and television, wrote her first book aged twenty-four. Her books have been translated into over thirty languages and sold fifteen million copies worldwide. She is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller.

Lucinda is currently writing The Seven Sisters series, which tells the story of adopted sisters and is based allegorically on the mythology of the famous star constellation. The first four books, The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister, The Shadow Sister and The Pearl Sister have all been No.1 bestsellers across Europe, and the rights to a multi-season TV series have already been optioned by a Hollywood production company.

The Pearl Sister
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Released 27th February 2018

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

  1. I really do have to try this series! Your enthusiasm has made me so keen…’s just they’re so big and my TBR pile is already so huge! I’m hoping that it might be a bit quieter over Dec/Jan and I can find time for a few books I’ve not been able to fit in. I have the first 2 and tbh they seem like perfect summer reads. Good chunksters to get lost in.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my friends has been recommending this series to me for a long time. I’m pretty sure I will love them when I do read them but when that might be is anyone’s guess.

    Liked by 1 person

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