Why I can’t write a Book Review for “The Pearl and the Carnelian” by Annabel Fielding.
Summary: “Britain, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household. Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the tribulations of the new century. In the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy. Fragile and enthralling, Lucy can weave fascinating stories like a spider weaves her web. Armed with shrewd wits and an iron will to match, she is determined to carve out a new life for herself. They are drawn to each other as kindred spirits, eager to take advantage of the new opportunities the world has to offer. Moreover, soon Hester gets to accompany Lady Lucy on her London Season, and readily plunges herself into the heady mix of passion, art and excitement of the glittering city. …”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Historical, England; Other Categories: Novel, Women.
The concept behind this book is a good one, and I believe Fielding has a very interesting story to tell. There is something very charming about the maid and her mistress trope which I enjoy, if done properly. The problem with this book, however, is that it takes far too long to see any progress in the story line, and this causes the reader to lose interest in what will come next. This, I believe, is a focus problem, and it felt like all the action got lost underneath the background, with long passages of what one person called “information dumps,” but I just call it waffling. This is probably part of the reason that I found the pacing here to be very slow. But I can handle that (hell, I read lots of John Irving before I gave up on him, and he’s the world’s #1 fictional waffler), at least to a point, but only if there’s a good set of characters there. Sadly, I had a very hard time empathizing with any of the characters Fielding gave us; they felt so lifeless and stodgy, with some very strangely worded dialogue. I also felt that these women didn’t quite fit in with the era of between the two world wars, probably due to some unwise choices in turns of phrase in the dialogues.
Furthermore (and I know that this may just be the ARC copy I received, but), I was very disconcerted with the many instances of grammatical mistakes, and improper usage of English (for example, I counted at least THREE times where she used ‘lied’ instead of ‘lay’ and I only got through about a quarter of the book). However, bad as that was (and it wasn’t good), what really bothered me the most, was an overtly excessive use of commas. This might not bother other readers, but as someone with mild dyslexia, seeing a comma actually makes me pause while reading the sentence. Because of this, the overall flow of the text was disrupted (I suppose this also effected the pacing of the story, which I already complained about, above), and didn’t read smoothly.
That said, I believe this could have been an excellent book, if Fielding had found a good editor or ghost writer to help her focus her narrative and eliminate all those grammatical and linguistic errors. Shame, because… what a waste of a really great cover, right? Well, I now find that this novel was re-released and renamed as “A Pearl for my Mistress” with a very cheesy new cover! How terribly unfortunate (because it doesn’t make me want to see if the new version is better than the first one).
If you want to read the revised version of this novel, “A Pearl for My Mistress” it was re-released in 2017 (hopefully after some heavy editing) and is still available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks), the website eBooks.com, and iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks). Hm… it does not bode well for the new version that I can’t find it on any of the used book sites in any iteration.