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The Pearl Thief

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Severine Kassel is asked by the Louvre in 1963 to aid the British Museum with curating its antique jewellery, her specialty. Her London colleagues find her distant and mysterious; her cool beauty the topic of conversations around its quiet halls. No one could imagine that she is a desperately damaged woman, hiding her trauma behind her chic, French image.

It is only when some dramatic Byzantine pearls are loaned to the Museum that Severine’s poise is dashed and the tightly controlled life she’s built around herself is shattered. Her shocking revelation of their provenance sets off a frenzied hunt for Nazi Ruda Mayek.

Mossad’s interest is triggered and one of its most skilled agents comes out of retirement to join the hunt, while the one person who can help her – the solicitor handling the Pearls – is bound by client confidentiality. As Severine follows Mayek’s trail, there is still one lifelong secret for her to reveal – and one for her to discover.

From the snowy woodlands outside Prague to the Tuilieries of Paris and the heather-covered moors of Yorkshire comes a confronting and heart-stopping novel that explores whether love and hope can ever overpower atrocity in a time of war and hate.

500 pages, Paperback

First published October 29, 2018

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About the author

Fiona McIntosh

68 books1,501 followers
Fiona writes best selling historical adventure-romance alongside the heroic-romantic, often brutal, fantasy she built her career upon. She lives in Australia but frequently roams the world meticulously researching the locations and gathering material for her historical novels that have international settings. Her books are published worldwide and in various languages.
Her most recent historical fiction has gathered such a following that she is now hosting a tour in 2014 to Paris and Provence so eager readers can walk in the footsteps of her characters.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 387 reviews
Profile Image for Kylie.
77 reviews9 followers
May 10, 2022
Where do I start, this is such a brilliant book. I absolutely loved, loved, loved it.!!!!

It is a story of horror, loss, heartbreak and revenge.

Severine Kassel has been requested by the Louvre Museum to review a new piece of antique jewellery that has been donated to them. This precious piece of unique jewellery unravels a past Severine has tried extremely hard to bury, a past that Severine has hidden from and put behind her.

These antique pearls bring about a discovery, that is shocking and horrific and forces Severine to face her past demons and face them head on, and that is exactly what Severine plans to do.

Fiona McIntosh has done a wonderful job in portraying her characters, researching her subjects and the harrowing tales of the past.

Please visit my blog and follow to see all of my past and future book reviews.

I rate this novel 5 stars.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,095 reviews2,664 followers
January 28, 2020
Antique jewellery was Severine Kassel’s forte so when her colleagues showed her some jewellery which had been loaned to the Museum, they requested her expertise on the pearls. But Severine’s normally controlled demeanor cracked when she saw what was in front of her and her horrific past came rushing back. The horrors Severine had buried for twenty years clawed at her; she needed to keep it together. But he was there – Nazi Ruda Mayek was in every corner; every thought. She needed to find him…

Daniel Horrowitz had been an agent for Mossad; now retired, he was soon back in the fold when he discovered Severine. Mossad were after the Nazi war criminal and with Severine’s knowledge the hunt was on. When Severine learned of the solicitor who was handling the pearls, she thought he could help. But Edward Summerbee was bound by client confidentiality and refused to help Severine. She was determined to trace the man who had changed her life irrevocably and although running out of options, she continued. Would she find him? Would she be able to confront her past and finally put it behind her?

Set in Prague, Paris and Yorkshire, from 1939 to 1963, The Pearl Thief by Aussie author Fiona McIntosh took my breath away. Astounding, brilliant, heartbreakingly poignant I loved this amazing novel – 500 pages long – with everything I have. This is my favourite novel so far this year; for a long while actually. The broken woman who was the main character was flawlessly crafted; the accompanying characters perfectly matched. The obvious research done by McIntosh is something she brings to all her novels and it pays off with the class and brilliance that is The Pearl Thief. To all fans of historical fiction, I recommend this novel highly.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
Author 19 books57 followers
November 4, 2018
I spent two and a half minutes reading this shallow, vapid nonsense before concluding that watching grass grow would be a far more mentally stimulating activity.
Profile Image for Fer Wicker.
18 reviews4 followers
January 16, 2019
I know this book is meant to be commercial fiction, easy to read, a Christmas present, made to make money, but one thing it rarely is, is engaging.

I struggled to finish this, even in the audiobook version. The story is just meh, overly dramatic and predictable. There are interminable passages of characters providing ‘fun facts’ about history and places - like the author shouting in your face “See? I do my research!”

The characters also spend a lot of time justifying themselves to each other and explaining things about the story. All this made the book quite boring and tedious at times.

In the end it is what it’s meant to be: a mediocre, generic novel with a ton of marketing to support it.

I’d tell anyone not to bother, even if you’re looking for a light, entertaining read for your commute there are so much better commercial books out there.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,912 reviews270 followers
December 20, 2018
4.5 stars
Take a historical adventure with accomplished Australian novelist and historical fiction specialist, Fiona McIntosh. In The Pearl Thief, McIntosh sweeps readers away to war-torn Prague, Paris, 1960s London and the breathtaking Yorkshire moors. It is a journey and a half, filled with moments of heart stopping survival, devastating choices, realisation, acceptance, love and hope.

In The Pearl Thief, ‘a predator becomes prey’, which is an exciting introduction to the latest release from Fiona McIntosh. Severine Kassel is the lady of this tale. Severine receives a secondment from her employer, the Louvre in Paris, to join the British Museum. Recently, a devastating set of pearls have emerged from the ashes of World War II. As Severine is a well respected specialist in the field of antique jewellery, she is naturally the most obvious figure to examine to pearls. However, underneath the veneer Severine has carefully built for herself as a cool and mysterious antique specialist, when the layers are chipped back, what surfaces is a desperately hurt and damaged woman. The Byzantine pearls are a devastating link to Severine’s tragic past. It is a past Severine has tried hard to forget. However, the appearance of the pearls signals a new chapter in Severine’s life, she must confront the man who took both the pearls and her family from her, Nazi Ruda Mayek. Moments of espionage define The Pearl Thief, which comes in the form of a Mossad agent, who becomes Severine’s ally. One final piece to this sad family puzzle is about to be revealed, thanks to the cat and mouse chase to capture Ruda Mayek.

I’ve really been looking forward to The Pearl Thief, it is one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and it is nice to send the year out on a high with this wonderful historical fiction narrative. When Fiona McIntosh was touring in 2016 to promote her novel The Chocolate Tin, I first heard about her plans to write The Pearl Thief. This included the research she had already undertaken to get the ball rolling in writing this novel. Now, two years later, The Pearl Thief has arrived and gosh was this an unforgettable read!

Those who closely follow the work of Fiona McIntosh will know just how seriously she takes her writing and historical research. The Pearl Thief has been years in the making and has been shaped by first hand visits to the amazing locales featured in the novel, along with rounds of meticulous research. As always with Fiona McIntosh, the end product of all her research is a book that manages to balance careful historical fact and new details, all within a wholly engaging narrative. In The Pearl Thief, expect to learn much about Prague and the Czechoslovakian experience of World War II, the vital role of the Kindertransport initiative and the work of Mossad agents in post World War II to capture war criminals. My most favourite part of the book was the work conducted by Severine, her career as a museum curator of antiques, with a specialisation of jewellery was incredibly enlightening. I loved this section of the narrative very much.

McIntosh has a knack for including plenty of intriguing locales in her novels that are vivid and well drawn. The Pearl Thief is a very good example of McIntosh’s expertise in this area. As a result, we are transported to Prague as the Nazi war machine hits, through to the stunning streets of Paris, bustling London and the breathtaking beauty of the Yorkshire moors. In each locale the stage is set up to perfection, adding to the rich atmosphere and tension of the novel.

Characterisation seems effortless to Fiona McIntosh. Each and every character featured in The Pearl Thief is carefully carved out. Severine, the lead of the tale, is stretched and pulled in many different directions, but we still receive a very clear picture of her innermost thoughts. Initially, Severine was presented as cold, distanced and aloof. She quickly grew on me and as her tragic story was uncovered. I felt nothing but sheer admiration for her. Severine’s spirit is strong and she is a determined young woman, despite her setbacks! Alongside Severine we have two men vying for her affections, I liked both these figures, who were outlined incredibly well by McIntosh. I liked how their own side stories were linked to the events in the novel and they added an essential blanket layer to this intriguing narrative. In Ruda Mayek, McIntosh has crafted the ultimate bad guy! Readers will appreciate all this character’s storyline has to offer.

Over the years I have indulged in plenty of World War II based novels. It always amazes me when I come across a segment of the war that I was not previously aware of. I would like to extend my thanks to Fiona McIntosh for drawing my attention to the important work of those who risked their lives to save the young through the Kindertransport system. Likewise, I have nothing but respect for those who survived the atrocities of war, lost everything and still helped to bring war criminals justice. I pause for a moment to appreciate their legacy.

I can think of no other writer to approach the topics presented in The Pearl Thief with such intelligence, insight and respect. Fiona McIntosh has outdone herself yet again, especially with that last hour twist! Thank you for your Christmas gift of The Pearl Thief.

The Pearl Thief is book #151 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for a copy of this book.
Profile Image for Lynne.
100 reviews
January 8, 2019
I have not read any Fiona Mcintosh books before and after this I probably won’t again. The premise of the story was good but it could have been developed much further and deeper instead of page after page describing how amazingly beautiful / stylish/intelligent/perfect Severine is, plus how every man that clocks eyes on her falls in love with her ...... talk about labouring the point! I found it all a bit unbelievable and over the top for my taste. Not my cup of tea at all.
Profile Image for Gloria (Ms. G's Bookshelf).
591 reviews126 followers
December 8, 2020
⭐️5 Stars ⭐️
The Pearl Thief is a fast paced historical fiction story that has the perfect blend of action, mystery and love. It is so beautifully written.

My first read by this author and I will definitely look out for more of her books. Unputdownable!
Profile Image for Andrea.
769 reviews30 followers
October 13, 2022
A good, fast-paced, but flawed story that I may have enjoyed more in a different format. This is the second time I've listened to narration by Katy Sobey, and I'm not a big fan. However, I do find Fiona McIntosh a reliably good storyteller, so I'd still recommend the book overall.

Severine Kassel is on secondment to the British Museum when she is asked to appraise a piece of Byzantine jewellery that happens to be very familiar to her, as it had been in her Czech Jewish family until it was stolen by the Nazis. Overwhelmed by traumatic memories, Severine flees back to her home in Paris where she is befriended by a kindly stranger named Daniel, (and this is the big flaw) to whom she decides to unburden herself. Telling Daniel every small detail of her own backstory takes up about half of the book, across several lengthy meetings between the two characters. It's a clunky literary device, but it's essential, because as Daniel suspects (and we the readers by now know), the two have a shared enemy in Nazi Ruda Mayek. Once Severine learns Daniel's true motives and realises they are on the same path to exact revenge on Mayek, the two return to London to track him down.

I appreciated learning more about the Kindertransport and about the Czech experience of the rise of Nazism. Some aspects of the story were very moving, and the locations were vividly rendered. Worth a read.

Profile Image for Alicia Hope.
Author 25 books10 followers
April 3, 2019
While this book's premise and excellent writing grabbed me, I'm afraid I couldn't get past the scene where the oh-so secretive heroine - who goes to great lengths to keep her secrets safe, even assuming a false name - decides to blurt everything to some stranger she just met in the park!
I didn't feel there was sufficient justification for her to do that, and this threw me out of the story to such an extent, I lost the will to continue reading what I'm sure would otherwise have been a great story.
February 28, 2019
Oh wow I thoroughly enjoyed this book....to the point of waking at 3am and reading for 40 minutes! Thanks Fiona absolutely loved it!
Profile Image for Carolyn.
278 reviews
January 4, 2019
The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh is an intense, detailed read ~ emotional and confronting at times.

The story begins in the cobblestoned streets of Prague within sight of The Prague Orloj ~ The Astronomical Clock in The Town Hall Square and then later onto forest woodlands where something quite unforeseen occurs which will change the lives of some forever.

This is historical fiction at its finest with a touch of espionage and details how life changed when Hitler's Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia.

Kindertransport made an escape possible for some of the children of Prague by train to the safety of London.

This is Katerina's story of survival, revenge and her sighting of the pearls.

This is not just a story about any pearls but about many, exquisite, ornate and historical pearls and jewels.

Can you guess who stole the pearls?

Is it possible to regain your life and take control after a traumatic event?

Can we ever find a love so 'pure' under the dark shadows that lurk behind or may follow us?

There is light at the end of the tunnel where church bells chime and a touch of Christmas unfolds for a time of joy and laughter.

Learn how to find the difference between a real pearl and a fake one.

It was a great joy to read The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh and to revisit some of the places I've been to and discover new ones along the way.

*** This is a very special book for me as my father was born in Prague.
Profile Image for Brooklyn Tayla.
966 reviews65 followers
March 9, 2019
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Books Australia in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
This was my first time reading a Fiona McIntosh book, and I daresay it won’t be my last! The author weaves such stunning stories and within conveys such potent imagery, here in 1963 London, coupled with flash backs to Nazi occupied Germany, made for such a powerful reading experience!
I’ve said it before, Historical Fiction for me is one of my favourite genres, purely because I feel like it allows me to take a step through time, and put myself in these characters’ shoes, let alone imagine a glimpse of the horrors that these people would have gone through.
Severine instantly intrigued me, I felt drawn to this character and felt like she had a mysterious aura about her, and I needed to know more.
Why was she so secretive?
As the story progressed, I was equally horrified for what Severine (as she goes by nowadays), but then learning about her true identity and the heartbreaking history behind how she got to where she is now, was just so sad, and you can definitley feel every inch of her pain and her reluctance to open up and convey those painful memories.
I was instantly memorized by the way Fiona McIntosh weaves the past and present together, as Severine meets Daniel, who is instantly drawn in by her (or does he have his own motives?) Well, you’ll just have to read the book and find out.
Daniel was a character that honestly up until halfway through the book, I was totally weary of. I didn’t know if he was playing on Severine’s trust to gain information, or if he was earnest in his frirbdship, but I had fun trying to piece things together as they were revealed! And the truth was indeed potent and emotional, I feel like these characters and this story will be one that’ll be sticking in my mind for time to come!
The prologue was instantly raw and powerful, and until a certain point in the book, I didn’t know how important those events would be for what was to come, but it was such a joy to see things come to pass! The emotions were and are real, as I’m still thinking about the revelation as I type!
This book has definitley made me want to check out Fiona McIntosh’s other books, for she captured so many emotions within this book: I felt such love at times for Severine and Edward, but at one tiny revelation I was shocked and horrified at something Severine confessed to get tormentor Ruda (I loathed him, but pitied him at times) and then wanted to weep for thinking what I thought! And Edward, what a character! I loved his interactions with Severine and his character development too, Daniels’ as well for that matter.
This was just such a beautiful and emotional roller coaster ride of a book, which looking back, I can’t find fault with, so thank you again to Penguin Books Australia for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 410 books673 followers
April 9, 2023
This author is quite a nice suprise for me... I really enjoy reading her books... Well researched and well written... historical WWII fiction at its best... :)
Profile Image for Kat Perry.
42 reviews2 followers
January 3, 2019
Very ho hum book. The storyline re the stolen pearls had a lot of potential, but I found myself skimming through long boring descriptive passages and hoping the book would develop more into the thriller it should have been with nazi thieves and the Mossad agent. Alas it did not. Also just could not get into the characters who were pretty shallow and disinteresting. I feel like the author just did not flesh them out well enough and they just seemed very like cardboard cutouts from a $2 romance. Very disappointing. Haven’t read any of her other books and probably wouldn’t bother to do so now.
372 reviews3 followers
March 24, 2019
Potentially interesting plot, but the story was stretched way too thin over 500 pages. Very implausible, and I started getting annoyed hearing so often how beautiful the main character was.
The ending was oh so neatly tied up in a bow. Completely predictable and Disney-ish. So boring I had to skim the last 50 or so pages.
Wow, that was a harsh review! I guess I’m annoyed at wasting my time reading this book.
Profile Image for Kate.
870 reviews124 followers
July 16, 2019
A surprisingly quick read, considering the size of the novel, but one I can understand is going to appeal to a broad sweep of historical fiction readers.

Set in the 1960s London, the reader is introduced to the alluring and aloof Severine Kassel- an antique jewellery historian briefly working in the British Museum. Called into to examine a unique and priceless garment of pearls, her past suddenly crashes into her present and all the horrors she experienced in World War II resurface. Thankfully, she has the help of Daniel and later Edward, to help her chase down the brutal ghost of her past who is attempting to profit from her family heirloom.

I experienced multiple lulls throughout this book; at times the plot stagnated, or there was a sudden rush of historical information that felt like I was reading a tourist guide to the location, and I must admit disbelief at the easy way every man fell instantly in love with the main character. The one absolute shining grace for me was Edward, I adored him and he absolutely changed the novel for me, especially given that he entered the scene quite late and was the first of many revelations.

Whilst immensely readable, I prefer the other historical fictions I have read that handled the hunt for a Nazi war criminal with more intensity and ethical questioning.
Profile Image for Rachael McDiarmid.
409 reviews36 followers
April 13, 2019
4.5 stars. You all know I love a Fiona McIntosh. I felt this one was darker for our heroine (not surprising when she’s Jewish and it’s WWII) and the men in this (with the exception of Rudy who you hate almost immediately) were a different breed to her usual leading men, which I liked. Not as polished, not larrikins. Different. There are two scenes which stopped my heart for a second, particularly the one towards the end. Once again I wish someone would buy the Fiona McIntosh catalogue and put her stories to film. I’d love to see them on the screen... now to await her next release :)
Profile Image for Sonja Potgieter.
18 reviews
December 30, 2018
I found the book very disappointing. The story has so much potential but it does not flow. The writing style is amateurish, it did not hold my interest, editing poor and not well written in my opinion.
Profile Image for Harriet Coombe.
17 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2019
3.5 stars. It started off brilliantly and I loved the writing style, the "Frenchness", the characters and the story line. But there were too many problems after that for me to give it a higher rating. I'd like to read more by the author though, as she definitely has a way with words!
29 reviews
December 1, 2018
THE PEARL THIEF by Fiona Macintosh is published by Penguin Random House October 2018
Review by Lorraine Parker
Fiona McIntosh, well know Australian author, has once again excelled in the writing of historical fiction based on thorough research and actual events that emanated from Hitler’s Germany as early as 1935.
From Prague, nine ‘Kindertransport’ trains were organised during 1939 to relocate children under threat to safe homes in Britain. (Eight made it through).
This is the setting for a father to make an instantaneous opportune decision to send his small son (baby really), Petr, to survival, a new life and freedom. Samuels’ wife Olga had entrusted him to walk the restless child in the pram in order for her to obtain some sleep while the other children were away. The paper work for another child who, at the last moment could not make the train, was complete. So it was that Petr was whisked agonisingly away as Hersh Adler to new parents anxious to adopt a baby in Britain. On the station, “all the families pressed forward a single moan of despair lifting to the ceiling as their children eased out of Prague’s main station”. Olga would never be the same, the remaining children were not told the truth. It was too painful.
At the London Museum in 1963 Severine Kassel, expert in antique jewellery (much of which was pillaged by the Nazis in WWII) has been ‘borrowed’ from the Louvre. Fiona McIntosh paints a dramatic scene of French elegance, aloofness and mystery around Severine. With the emergence of some Byzantine pearls Severine’s composure is shattered as she recognises them. Last seen by her in 1941.
Time spent in quiet contemplation in a park is broken as a stranger, Daniel, strolls by. He starts a conversation and breaks gently through her façade of isolation. She confides that her real name is Katerina Kassowicz.
The prose flows so easily and I love the way the reader is informed so early in the book that Daniel is not what he appears, taking advantage of Katerina’s apparent confiding innocence with his own intriguing hidden agenda. Katerina’s story unfolds in waves. Daniel wants to know more but is afraid to know more. Katya, as she is called, hesitantly reveals her girlhood in Prague and the horrendous shattering evil and cruelty of Ruda Mayek.
The revelation of the Byzantine pearls brings her into contact with the lawyer, Mr. Summerbee, and knowledge that Ruda Mayek could still be alive. Katerina’s long buried wounds and trauma re-surface. Such vivid scenes and horrific sounds of the forest come flooding back to her as she remembers her family. She survived in WWII by her own physical and mental endurance, strength and will to live. Now she is consumed by her investigation that link the pearls to Mayek.
I felt more like a privileged listener than a reader and love the way the reader is not left to second guess. The story is so compellingly told. Tension and anxiety are so skilfully created. The need to know is so profound that I could not put this book down.
The finale is breathtaking and cannot be foreseen. A powerful account that is much deeper and much more than the outline I have given. A most enriching read.
Profile Image for Romanticamente Fantasy.
6,440 reviews181 followers
April 21, 2021
Simo_Mica - per RFS
La ladra di perle è la storia di Severine Kassel, esperta d’arte specializzata in gioielli presso il museo del Louvre. Severine vive a Parigi ma collabora frequentemente anche con altri musei in varie città nel mondo e le capita spesso di recarsi per qualche consulenza presso il British Museum. È una persona riservata, introversa, affascinante, con un debole per la moda e che sa valorizzare il suo aspetto esteriore. Severine ha però tanti segreti che nasconde da oltre vent’anni, quando all’improvviso si trova davanti a una collana di perle e la sua vita si sgretola in un secondo. Una collana particolare, con una storia che risale al XIII secolo e che apparteneva alle donne della sua famiglia: si trasmetteva da madre in figlia. È allora che inizia la storia di Katerina Kassowicz, ragazzina ceca di origine ebraica che viveva a Praga con la sua famiglia prima della seconda guerra mondiale. Ecco come lei stessa si descrive: “Io non mi fido di nesso. Diffido di ogni persona che incontro. Immagino che voglia qualcosa o che stia mentendo. Non vado fiera di questo mio difetto, ma mi ha aiutato a sopravvivere” (Tratto dal libro)

E La ladra di perle diventa la storia di una donna, una figlia, una guerriera, una sopravvissuta che deve lottare contro tutti i suoi demoni, i suoi ricordi e il suo incubo Ruda Mayek. Dal momento in cui Severine accetta di riconoscere il suo passato, la sua vita è nuovamente in pericolo e la porta a conoscere la spia del Mossad (l’agenzia di intelligence dello Stato di Israele), Daniel Joseph Horowitz, e l’avvocato Edward Summerbee. Tutti e due avranno un ruolo molto importante nella storia e nella vita di Severine. Il loro amore, la loro comprensione, danno la forza alla protagonista di rivivere la storia della famiglia Kassowicz e dell’uomo che ha rubato loro “molto più di semplici perle”. (Tratto dal libro)

Mi è piaciuto tantissimo questo libro perchè tratta un tema molto difficile: lo sterminio degli ebrei in Repubblica Ceca. La scrittrice però alla fine, usando emozioni molto forti, è riuscita creare una storia di vita e non di morte. I personaggi sono forti, creati per farti sentire parte della loro vita, più di una volta ho avuto la sensazione di viaggiare insieme a Katerina a Praga, insieme a Severine a Parigi, a Londra e soprattutto nello Yorkshire. Ho pianto, ho vissuto lo spavento e il terrore, ma mi sono anche commossa nei momenti di pura felicità insieme a tutti i personaggi. Mi sono piaciuti tutti ma il mio preferito è il dottor Otto Schafer, una presenza costante nella vita di Severine, anche se non s’incontravano da tantissimo tempo. Lui è sempre rimasto come una roccia che le ha permesso di trarre la forza al solo pensiero che lui c’era. Secondo me è lui il personaggio chiave che cambia la trama. La sua presenza porta il sole laddove c’era solo tenebra.

Per me è una storia di speranza, del buono che prevale sul male, del ritrovo che sostituisce la perdita, della felicità che fa sparire la tristezza.
Profile Image for Certified Book Addicts.
585 reviews20 followers
December 8, 2018
After two years of meticulous research and three months of writing, Fiona McIntosh is back bringing the past to life with her best historical fiction novel to date, The Pearl Thief. Spanning across France, England and Czechoslovakia with a dual timeline of 1939 and 1963, this is a powerful, gripping and all-consuming story of Severine Kassel. Telling her story across the decades in the first person, Severine was a young girl on the cusp of womanhood living the ideal life in Czechoslovakia when war breaks out. Unimaginable tragedy hits Severine and her family from a most unexpected source, invariably changing her mother’s, father’s and two sister’s lives. Walking away a changed girl, the reader meets Severine many years in her late thirties working as an antique jewellery curator in England. Severine is a self-contained, unemotional, polished woman of impeccable appearance, using her façade to hide who she is. A woman haunted by her past and unable to move forward. When a string of beautiful pearls finds their way to Severine, her past comes rushing back and the man behind it all, Nazi Ruda Mayek. The villain of the piece, McIntosh has described Ruda as a combination of all the best villains that she has come across. Ruda is certainly a cold, terrifying man and to witness Severine decide to be the hunter, rather then the hunted, is an inspiration to behold. While Severine doesn’t need a man to stand by her, two men enter her life as potential suitors, Daniel and Edward. While both men are in vastly different professions, they are honourable and their love for Severine means they have the best of intentions for her. Inadvertently, Daniel and Edward also help Severine reconcile with her past. With unexpected twists and turns that left me gasping, it was wonderful to realize that after the dark days Severine encountered there would light at the end of it all.

With themes of war, family, love, revenge and the past shaping who we are, this is an in-depth look at the atrocities of World War II see through the eyes of a survivor. I can’t wait for Fiona’s next release, The Diamond Hunter!
November 8, 2018
This would have to be my favourite Fiona McIntosh book. Her attention detail and descriptions are flawless. I was gripped from the first page. A highly recommended read.
Profile Image for Claire Louisa.
1,546 reviews92 followers
February 17, 2020
4.5 Stars

The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh was an absolutely brilliant read!

It was my turn to pick the book for my face-to-face book club this month and this was my pick. I received this for Christmas 2018 and thought it was well past time that I read it, it also marks off another #20backlistin2020 books, that's 2 down 18 to go. This is also my 10th book in the AWW2020 reading challenge.

This could have been just another holocaust novel, but it was very different from any others I've read.

We meet Severine/Katerina when she is in London working on secondment at a museum in 1963 and is asked to identify some pearls, this is the start of her journey into remembering the past and seeking revenge and peace in the now. 

There are several stories/timelines happening throughout this novel, we have the 1939-1941 timeline, the beginning of the end for Katerina and her family, the start of the war and the murder of thousands of Jewish people. I had never heard of the kindertransport, trains that were to take Jewish children and babies from Germany and the greater Europe to the safety of Britain, being put up in homes until their parents could once again be reunited with them. For the majority, they never saw their families again. How brave and terrified must those families and children have been, saying goodbye to loved ones, knowing it was unlikely they'd never see them again.

At times I found some of the story very hard to read, especially when Severine/Katerina is telling Daniel about what happened to her and her family due to Ruda Mayek, a man she has spent 20 years trying to forget. Ruda Mayek is an evil man, there were so many of them during the war, I guess, there still are, but it seems like Hitler brought out the very worst in people, especially those who weren't nice, to begin with. As Katerina tells Daniel her story, I was transported to the places she remembers, perhaps too clearly at times due to Fiona McIntosh's ability to describe things in such detail.

The lawyer, Edward Summerbee, who is in charge of the pearls becomes an important character in the novel and whilst not being willing to break his oath to keep his client's identity a secret, he is able to help Katerina in other ways. I really liked Edward and his determination to keep to his morals as a lawyer, but his determination to also help where he could, even if he took some persuading.

There was plenty of suspense in the hunt for Ruda Mayek and plenty of secrets to uncover throughout the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and must get onto this last year's Christmas present by the same author, The Diamond Hunter.
Profile Image for Emma Lush.
38 reviews3 followers
May 17, 2019
I find myself almost exclusively giving books 4-5 stars and sometimes feel a little uncritical, but to be honest I think it’s just a reflection of the quality of books I choose to read.

The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh is no exception. This book made me cry on the train to work at 7:00am on a Wednesday morning. It has one of the most gut-wrenching scenes I think I’ve ever read. I had to look away from the page to gather myself back up. But to not divulge the truth of what truly happened in Europe during WWII really does do a disservice to those who fell at the beast’s behest. So thank you to Fiona McIntosh for refusing to shy away from the eye-opening details of those horrors, what it could have done to someone who survived that horror and how on earth they might begin to move forward with existence, even if only through fiction.
Profile Image for Diane.
448 reviews7 followers
November 30, 2018
Brilliant story, thank you Fiona McIntosh! This book has become my new favourite by this Author. I have read a lot of books set during WWI and WW2 but the character in this story would have to be the very worst of Nazi monsters! You will have to read the book to see why. Set in Prague, Paris, London and the Yorkshire Dales, Fiona McIntosh has, through her story, created amazing images of war torn Prague and the plight of the Jewish people and 1963 London and Paris. I recommend this book.

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