Title: PEARL IN A CAGE
Author: Joy Dettman
Read: June 2020
Read: June 2020
On a balmy midsummer's evening in 1923, a young woman foreign, dishevelled and heavily pregnant is found unconscious just off the railway tracks in the tiny logging community of Woody Creek. The town midwife, Gertrude Foote, is roused from her bed when the woman is brought to her door. Try as she might, Gertrude is unable to save her, but the baby lives. Gertrude's daughter Amber who has recently lost a son in childbirth and her husband Norman take the child in.
There are a few books you encounter throughout your life that will leave a big impact in your mind, and PEARL IN A CAGE was such a book for me. Words cannot do it justice when I say that I lived every emotion in its pages! And two days after finishing the story, I am still consumed by aspects of the book that have affected me deeply.
I am grateful to have discovered Joy Dettman’s great writing through stumbling across ONE SUNDAY on my library’s website, because I am sure that I would never otherwise have picked up a book with the strange title PEARL IN A CAGE. Even the cover design suggested a historical romance with a beautiful tragic heroine to me, which just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or its title), because it was anything but. Instead, the story follows the growing up of a young girl who is found as a newborn baby next to the body of her nameless mother. Due to a twist of fate, the very same night another young mother loses her newborn and, grief stricken, snatches the orphaned infant to her breast, an act that will have lasting consequences for the baby, the family and the whole town.
Dettman has a wonderful way of bringing her characters to life, and an uncanny eye for detail. With a rich, colourful cast she evokes 1920’s and 1930’s small town Australia, and the story took on an almost cinematic quality as its pictures played out in my mind. I’m not sure how she does it, but I felt that I had a good insight into each and every one of Woody Creek’s residents, as my heart ached for young Jenny Morrison. I felt sorrow, I felt joy, I felt almost murderous rage and a sense of dread so powerful that it made my heart race and my mouth dry. The story was ALIVE.
I must say that Dettman’s books can scare you more than the most terrifying thriller! Evil comes in many guises. It may take the shape of Archie Foote as he robs his young wife of her baby. Or in the form of a young woman, crazed by guilt, whose hatred will see her do terrible things to an innocent child. Or it may be in the shape of an old man, whose long white beard reminds the town’s children of Santa Claus. Or in the shape of misbehaved twins. Evil comes in many guises, and how I trembled and feared them all! It’s lucky that the reader can take a breather in Gertrude’s kitchen, where it’s safe to venture, because Gertrude will always look after anyone in need.
Oh how my heart is still so full of these characters! I am so glad that this is a series and I can keep reading to learn more about the people of Woody Creek. What an absolute gem of a book!