The year is 1938. Reckless and callous, Mari is forced to leave her quiet New Zealand home in disgrace. The tenacious 18 year old vows to return in glory… but she’s heading for England and for war.
Lesley Pearse has once again cracked it, with a superb final instalment to the fabulous Belle Trilogy.
As stated in previous posts, Pearse began her writing career at the age of 49 which gives her a mature and well-developed voice throughout her novels. She has now published 22 books to date – of which Survivor is the most recent.
Throughout the great variety of topics, themes and settings, all her works share a central thread of human endurance and self-determination – and Survivor is certainly no exception to the rule.
Pearse has managed once more to produce a story that is very human. In the stoke of a pen she captures the whole spectrum of 30s/ 40s society and portrays it vividly. A technique I have always admired is her ability to align so many perspectives into a story to give it a wonderful depth – and readers can undoubtedly see such work here.
I was quite moved by the handling of the London Blitz scenes, simply by the honesty of its portrayal and the quiet, resolute dignity of those who endured it.
Readers who have read neither Belle nor The Promise (although I strongly recommend you do because they are excellent) need not fear of being left out.
Like the rest of the novels in the series, Survivor too can hold its own as a compelling stand-alone story and any previous knowledge you may need is neatly filled in for you along the way.
Fear not either my dear Pearse devotees, this novel also extends and builds upon previously set foundations in a novel I think beautifully brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.
The key detail that separates this novel from that of its predecessors, I feel, is the fact that the main protagonist is not one that readers would necessarily take too immediately. Belle, starring in the previous two books, was an instantly likeable and vibrant character – whereas Mari, though vivacious, is also initially vain and self-centred.
Both heroines grow massively over the novels, but in Survivor I feel the reader’s connection to Mari blossoms much more naturally alongside her – leading to a much more enjoyable reading experience.
She is humanly prone to making mistakes (some of them amusingly similar to that of her feisty predecessor and some of the likenesses become uncanny) and yet there is a gritty underdog quality which I think ultimately makes her the more appealing character.
The body of the book is reasonably fast-paced and there are certainly a few twists to rock even the most observant of readers. All in all I simply couldn’t put it down, it was thoroughly brilliant. And whilst there were a few slightly romanticised clichés, Pearse is more than forgiven for what is an excellent piece of fiction.
Published by Penguin, Survivor retails at £7.99.