I loved Judith Eagle’s debut, The Secret Starling, so it was with eager anticipation that I started reading her second book. I was not disappointed. Wonderful storytelling, an epic adventure, villains that make you boo and hiss, brave and resourceful children, the evocative Parisian setting and the mouthwatering French food, all blend together in an entertaining mystery. This book is a delight of a read.
Nell Magnificent usually does her best to avoid spending time with her awful parents. Her money obsessed father, Gerald and her fashion obsessed mother, Melinda show no interest in their daughter and treat her with disdain. It is therefore rather surprising that Nell should beg to be allowed to accompany them on a business trip to Paris. However Nell has a particular reason for wanting to visit the French capital. Her adored au pair, Perrine, or Pear as she was known, lives there and Nell is desperate to find her. Pear used to write regularly to Nell and had promised to rescue her from her miserable life but her letters have suddenly stopped. Nell is determined to find out why and to uncover the mystery behind Pear’s disappearance. Nell embarks on an adventure in which she makes new friends, hides in laundry rooms of grand hotels and races through secret tunnels and catacombs as she uncovers secrets beneath the bustling city.
This is an adventure with a traditional feel and is the type of story that encouraged me to become a reader as a child. The twists and turns of the plot, the gradual development of friendships and the growing bravery of Nell all encourage the reader to feel very much part of the action. Judith Eagle’s love of Paris shines through the entire book and the city comes vividly to life in the descriptions and the depiction of everyday life. The mouthwatering food, oh my goodness the food! I could almost taste the croque monsieur and the hot chocolate with the piece of chocolate melting in it. There are wonderful descriptions of the bakery delicacies, the fashion houses, the cobbled streets and the wide boulevards. In my head I was reading this with a French accent!
Nell is an extremely engaging character and her friendship with Xavier and his family and friends is believable and touching. Readers will, I think, enjoy the bravery and resourcefulness that the young characters display and as the story is set in the 1960s there is a satisfying independence to their lives due to the absence of mobile phones and technology. There are several strands to the plot and these are brought together in a satisfying and rather unexpected ending. A happy book imbued with a feeling of kindness and highly recommended.
The attractive cover and lovely chapter headings throughout are by Kim Geyer. I should like to thank Faber and Faber Publishers for providing my review copy,
The Pear Affair was published on 5th March and is available to buy online. If you are looking for another adventure for this age group I would recommend Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll coincidentally also set in France but this time during the 18th century.