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QBD Recommends: The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh 

 

Most booklovers who have spent any time in an Australian bookstore are probably familiar with the name Fiona McIntosh. One of Australia’s most prolific writers, Fiona has written over thirty books across a wide range of genres, including crime, fantasy, and children’s literature. Arguably though, it is her historical fiction for which she is most well known, and keeps her place as one of Australia’s best-selling authors.

And it is her historical fiction that recently brought the Sussex-born author all the way from her home in South Australia, to Penrith, NSW – to discuss her new novel, QBD’s current Book of the Month, The Pearl Thief.

Having just finished reading The Pearl Thief myself, I can personally tell you: This book is extraordinary! The Pearl Thief is the type of book that will keep you up at night, reading into the early hours of the morning, because you just can’t put the book down! (An experience I haven’t had with a book in years, but with The Pearl Thief, sleep was not an option!)

But what did Fiona McIntosh have to say about her latest novel?

The evening was hosted by Penrith City Library on Thursday, 15th November. Readers of all ages had come out to fill the Library’s Lower Lounge. Around the room, copies of The Pearl Thief were tucked under arms, or kept open on laps, as readers continued to flip through the pages with an insatiable need.

Fiona McIntosh took to the podium, decked out in tribute to the titular pearls. Pearl necklace, pearl bracelet, pearl earrings. Her entire discussion was presented with her unmistakeable, vivacious energy and passion for storytelling.

But let’s start with the most important question. Why should readers read The Pearl Thief?

Fiona McIntosh described this book as “a book of firsts”, admitting that usually, when she writes, she is never aware if her writing is good or not. But when it came to The Pearl Thief, things were different.

“Usually, I just write, and I’ve got no sense of ‘Is this good? Is this bad? Is this ordinary? Is this fabulous?’

“But as I was writing this one, I knew… it was fabulous!”

For the first time, Fiona knew, what she was writing was not only tremendously special, but she was hitting all the right notes. Her storytelling, her setting, her characters, her words – all combining to create magic!

So where did this magic begin? What was the origin of the idea for The Pearl Thief?

When it comes to writing her stories, Fiona attests, she always starts with place. Where is the story set? So when she set out to write what would become The Pearl Thief, she asked herself, “Where would my readers like me to take them next?” The answer: Prague.

This choice of setting then provided the catalyst for the story to follow. Once Fiona had decided on Prague, she began to think about the city’s history, and how the German occupation of Czechoslovakia became a trigger for World War Two.

So, Fiona had her setting, and her timeline. Prague, 1930’s/1940’s. Now she needed a character. She knew immediately that she wanted this character to be a survivor. Enter, Severine Kassel.

“She arrived, and tapped me on the shoulder, and she was complete. It was the first time… that a character had arrived into my life and said ‘Here I am! I’m ready to go!’”

Who is Severine Kassel?

When Severine Kassel arrived as a character in Fiona’s mind, she knew she was a survivor. But what was her story? From her podium at Penrith Library, Fiona described how she knew she wanted this character to be running from something, until something came along in her life, and forced her to turn around.

“And that’s why on the front cover of the book, she’s turning. Because I wanted her to turn around and face all the darkness, and all the pain.”

But what was it that was going to set Severine’s story in motion? Fiona came up with the idea of a glorious, family heirloom of Byzantine pearls. These pearls would then be stolen from Severine, only for her to stumble across them again, twenty years later.

“And when she sees them, having reinvented her life over those twenty years, and glued herself together, all of her pain, and all of her anger is going to be unleased, when she sees these pearls again and decides the only way she can go forward, the only way she can live her life properly, is to go and hunt down the man she holds responsible for all of her pain.”

“That’s what the story became. This is her turning around to say “I’m no longer running from you, I’m coming for you.”

The writing process behind The Pearl Thief

Now Fiona had told us all about the story, and the origins of The Pearl Thief, it was time for her to share some inside tips on the writing process. When it comes to her historical fiction, Fiona lists research and travel as two of the most important ways to create a “bubble of believability around the reader”. When writing a novel like The Pearl Thief, Fiona always travels to the place where her story is set, to walk where her characters will walk.

“I go and find all these places… and then I can weave them into the story with great authenticity… Every place you read about in the story, I’ve been to, and I’ve put my feet there.”

To make sure her travels are well informed, Fiona hires a personal tour guide, and allows them to teach her all about the history, and people of the place she has chosen to set her story. But she never takes notes for her research.

“Everything I do is based on feeling... When I’m researching, I’m never taking notes, I’m just looking, and absorbing, and a bit like osmosis, whatever gets through, sticks, and stays with me. And then the writing is done all on pure emotion.”

Here, Fiona shared her most poignant moment in researching the Prague setting of The Pearl Thief. The moment came when she asked her guide to show her the forests that lay beyond Prague. At this point, Fiona knew, something bad was going to happen to her character here, but she needed to see it for herself. To find this place, and walk in her character’s shoes. To feel what her character would feel. So her guide drove her out, and around the forests, until Fiona asked her to stop. Then, she hopped out of the car, and walked down the wooded lane alone, listening to the sounds of the few birds, and the falling autumn leaves.

“The leaves were falling by the hundred, on top of me. It was like confetti. And I could just hear this flutter. And it was the most beautiful sound, but the most chilling sound. And I began to cry, and I knew I’d found the spot. I thought, ‘this is where it’s going to happen. This is where Severine is going to walk.”

When you read The Pearl Thief, it’s easy to see why this setting brought Fiona to tears. The forests became the scene of Severine’s most traumatic moment. A moment that turns her life upside-down, robbing her of far more than her family pearls. A moment that McIntosh has written to absolute, horrific perfection. This is the moment that will stick with you, long after you’ve read it. This is Fiona McIntosh at her best, and absolutely why you should be reading this incredibly powerful story.

So make sure you head to your nearest QBD store, and pick up a copy of The Pearl Thief today!

~Alyssa, QBD Penrith.

Have you met our September Book of the Month?

Have you heard about our September Book of the Month? 

If you've ever dreamt about getting revenge on an ex that has wronged you (and who hasn't?), you will absolutely DEVOUR The Sunday Girl!

Described as Bridget Jones meets The Girl on the Train, I couldn't wait to read The Sunday Girl, and when I finally managed to get my hands on a copy, I even read it in one sitting - it's THAT good.

After Taylor's ex decides to leak her sex tape, Taylor decides to consult The Art of War in order to successfully destroy Angus' life... but at what cost to her own? Taylor is broken-hearted, angry, and fixated on revenge. As relateable as Bridget Jones, Louisa Clark and Bella Swan, Taylor is awkwardly funny and often cringe worthy in the best possible way.

When her plan goes horribly wrong, Taylor is dragged into the grip of the consequences of seeking revenge, and the reader is forced to question if perhaps she'll be the one who is destroyed after all.

I rate this read 4.5 out of 5 stars; a must read that will keep you gripped until the every last page (and watch out for that plot twist!)

~Emily, QBD Loganholme

Get your copy of The Sunday Girl in store or online here

QBD Reviews: The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

Have you checked out our January Book of the Month yet? C.J. Tudor's debut novel, The Chalk Man, follows a group of friends haunted by a grisly childhood find.

Emily from our Geelong store sums it up perfectly for you:

Stephen King's 'IT' meets crime fiction in this nerve-wracking page-turner. It's hard to believe that this is Tudor's first book, but I've made room on my shelf for her future thrillers! As a fan of the netflix series Stranger Things, this novel gave me a mystery vibe from the very beginning - nothing adds up, and the time jumps left me biting my nails the whole way through. A definite must-read! 4 stars.

But don't just take our word for it, let the author tell you about it herself!

#TheChalkMan is available in store now. Be sure to grab a copy of this awesome thriller next time you visit!

Have you read The Poet?

Michael Connelly's The Poet is our April Book Of The Month! At only $12.99, it's great value!

What an experience! The Poet is a rollercoaster ride - a whole bunch of twists and turns and tiny, misleading drops that build up to the final plummet. This is a novel that kept me turning page after page, wanting to puzzle out whodunnit. I thought I was oh so clever following the hints in between the lines but boy was I wrong! A definite must read for lovers of John Grisham and David Baldacci! - Karen C., Tweed heads QBD

The Golden Child: Our Gripping Book Of the Month!

Our February Book of the Month is receiving rave reviews!
(and it's not too late to grab a copy!)

golden kidThe Golden Child is a gripping novel easily devoured in a day. Wendy James makes you question everything about parenting, and really makes you wonder whether good parents can have bad children. A must read for fans of Liane Moriarty, this book brings you in to the world of both parents and children going through the trials and tribulations of school life: moving to a new town, making friends, fitting in, and bullying. This book is an excellent read that you won't want to put down! - Danielle, QBD Robina

 

Australian author Wendy James casts a sharp eye over the anxieties of being a parent, especially when a child may not be as perfect as they seem. With alternating perspectives and blog posts throughout, the characters' lives are entwined in the midst of a shocking turn of events. This suspenseful novel offers a fascinating portrayal of the relationship between parents and teens - it gripped me from beginning to end! - Eugenia, QBD Miranda