The Women of Pearl Island

Polly Crosby. Park Row, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7783-1114-0
Crosby (The Book of Hidden Wonders) returns with the languid story of two women, their grief, and the secrets of a remote island off the coast of England. In 2018, two months after 20-year-old Tartelin Brown’s mother dies from cancer, Tartelin answers an ad to assist Marianne Stourbridge with catching butterflies on the fictional island of Dohhalund. Marianne is a salty old amateur lepidopterist, and as Tartelin struggles with watching her first butterfly die in a jar, she meets Jacob Hall, a predictable love interest. The narrative moves back and forth between Tartelin’s present perspective and Marianne’s life as a little girl in the 1920s. While Tartelin explores the island, small mysteries gradually build: were nuclear bombs tested there? What is the real relationship between Marianne and her estranged friend, Nan? As Tartelin grapples with grief over losing her mother and Marianne comes to terms with the past, words from a sea captain’s gravestone—“The sea is made up of unspeakable sadness”—become a thematic refrain. Told in atmospheric, evocative prose, this can be a bit sleepy and slow moving, though it has a hypnotic pull. Those who enjoy subtle mysteries may stick around for the plot’s gradual unfurling. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 09/14/2021
Release date: 12/07/2021
Genre: Fiction
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