The Pearl And The Carnelian By Annabel Fielding
A disturbing tale of ill-thought ambition.
Set in 1934, this story takes place during a time of major upheaval in Europe. Hitler has just come to power, and—trying his utmost to avoid a war with Great Britain—sets key henchmen such as Ribbentrop on a quest to secretly woo the British aristocracy with promises of peace, if they will only let Hitler have his way in the East…
Into this boiling pot of intrigue and double-crossing steps Lady Lucy Fitzmartin, the nineteen-year-old disgruntled and oh-so-naïve daughter of an Earl. The Earl is not as rich as some might believe, and Lucy feels very hard done by in comparison to the other young socialites she mixes with. Lucy is desperate to escape her restricted life—she wants to travel, to write, to be someone. She is already writing frothy articles for a large newspaper, articles that talk only of who was where and what they were wearing. Secretly, she is writing novels and, even more secretly, she is educating herself in the ways of the world, so that she may be seen as something more than a pretty decoration on a young man’s arm.
A new lady’s maid is hired for her. Hester Blake is from northern England, a poor area with high unemployment, and has ambitions to do better than might be expected from such a lowly background. She has pushed herself through grammar school, to get as educated as she can, and sees working as a lady’s maid as the ideal way to fulfill her ultimate dream: to travel the world.
This is not a lesbian novel in the strictest sense of the genre—yes, a relationship develops between Lucy and Hester and plays a pivotal role in both their stories. But this is most definitely more an historical piece and an examination of the self-serving lengths people will go to in order to achieve their ambitions.
As a result, it’s not a comfortable read. Lucy is shallow, needy, and rapidly develops a sympathy for Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. This is hard reading, especially in current times. While Hester tries to warn Lucy of the dangers of the path she is following, she has to do so within the limits of their respective positions in society, and her words consequently fall on deaf ears. Lucy is completely driven to have some kind of influence in the world, and her misguided belief that Hitler and the Reich only mean to follow a road to peace is excruciating to witness.
There’s a great deal of historical detail in here, and all clearly very well researched. However, at times the detail is overwhelming and detracts from the underlying story. Similarly, the poor punctuation and writing style itself is distracting – I stumbled over the meaning of certain passages due to misplaced commas and incorrect use of tenses.
Overall, though, a good story even if the subject matter was difficult to read in places.