Book Review: Jewel Sea by Kim Kelly

Jewel Sea…

About the Book:

The whole of the harbour was touched with gold – the tops of the quiet waves, warehouse roofs, the bulging folds of sails at rest, the tips of seagull wings – giving him one sweeping glimpse of beauty just as he was leaving, a vision of things as they ought always to be just as they were not…

March, 1912. A sultry Indian summer hangs over the west coast of Australia and aboard the luxury steamship SS Koombana, three tales entwine.

Irene Everley longs to leave her first-class fishbowl existence, secretly penning a gossip column as her life spirals out of control into soulless liaisons and alcohol, the long shadow of a tragedy clouding her view.

James Sinclair, an investor on his way to Broome is not the man he says he is but can he be trusted?

Abraham Davis, a wealthy dealer whose scandalous divorce is being dragged through the press, prepares to take the gamble of his life: to purchase an infamous, stolen pearl along the journey north.

Perfectly round, perfectly pink, this pearl comes with a curse and with a warning – destroying all who keep it from returning to the sea.


My Thoughts:

The ill-fated Koombana, a steamship that disappeared, along with 150 passengers and crew, without a trace during a cyclone north of Port Hedland in Western Australia on the 20th of March in 1912, provides the setting for this novel, Jewel Sea. We board this ship with a group of passengers, and through their interactions we experience a re-imagined version of the last trip the Koombana ever made. It’s a fast paced little novel, tense and gripping, with a grim sense of expectation foreshadowing the story. And yet, most surprising of all, it is a love story, of an intense attraction that bursts into a love like no other. In Jewel Sea, we are treated to that special blend of Kim Kelly magic: history, love, legend, and authenticity – above all, there is always that rich vein of authenticity.

Bracketing the events on board the ship is a curious tale told by one of the most curious characters I have ever come across. Miya is a pearl, the legendary cursed rose coloured pearl, whose fate is purported to be knotted closely with that of the Koombana. Kim Kelly breathes life into this inanimate object, giving her a soul, a destiny, and a story like no other. As much as I loved this novel in its entirety, Miya’s chapters were my absolute favourite. I could feel her pain, her desperation; it’s an extraordinary writer who can take an object and make it sing with life.

‘And it was at this moment that my change became complete: in the absence of shell, I began to lay down my curse around me. For theft unleashes a law of life, too. Tragedy is the thief who denies there must be recompense against his greed. It was simple. I would be used as I has been made: to call the clouds over the land. Or I would be returned to the sea. But to steal me, to keep me from my purpose, is to pay the highest price. To pay with your life.’

Kim Kelly, my reading life has forever been altered for the better since discovering your words. There is truly nothing to risk in reading a novel written by Kim Kelly if you are yet to do so. She writes with truth and beauty, depth and love. I highly recommend Jewel Sea with the greatest affection. It’s an unforgettable story that will sweep you away and leave you breathless with anticipation.

🍵🍵🍵🍵🍵


About the Author:

Kim Kelly is a writer of Australian fiction, author of the novels Black Diamonds, This Red Earth, The Blue Mile, Paper Daisies, Wild Chicory, Jewel Sea and Lady Bird & The Fox – all tales of passion, politics and history, of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. Books, writing, wondering and wandering the rolling green and gold hills of the Central West where she lives today on a small rural property with her muse de bloke, Deano, two cats and three chickens, and occasionally the kids when they come home to graze.


Jewel Sea – New Edition Re-released
Published by Jazz Monkey Publications
Released on 7th August 2018

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Jewel Sea by Kim Kelly

  1. Kim kelly is definitely one of my favourite authors, I’ll buy anything she writes. I’ve had this sitting there for ages, I’m moving it up the pile and will read it this week. Great review Theresa

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OK, I’d never heard of the Koombana, and now I feel like a bad Australian 😦 This sounds like a fascinating book; kind of like a more earthy, intricate, and interesting Titanic. And I love the idea of the closet gossip columnist, a bird in a gilded cage. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you start scrolling through the reviews for this book, you see how many people have never heard of it. I only heard of it this year, because purely by chance, this is the third book I’ve read on the pearling industry in WA in the late 19th and early 20th century. The whole history is so interesting. And as to the Koombana, it occurred eerily close to the Titanic. I think you’d like this book.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My Reading Life: #aww2018 Challenge Checkpoint 5 | Theresa Smith Writes

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