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From the publisher
Longlisted for The Booker Prize 2023
Marianne is eight years old when her mother goes missing.
Left behind with her baby brother and grieving father in a ramshackle house on the edge of a small village, she clings to the fragmented memories of her mother’s love; the smell of fresh herbs, the games they played, and the songs and stories of her childhood.
As time passes, Marianne struggles to adjust, fixated on her mother’s disappearance and the secrets she’s sure her father is keeping from her. Discovering a medieval poem called Pearl and trusting in its promise of consolation, Marianne sets out to make a visual illustration of it, a task that she returns to over and over but somehow never manages to complete.
Tormented by an unmarked gravestone in an abandoned chapel and the tidal pull of the river, her childhood home begins to crumble as the past leads her down a path of self-destruction. But can art heal Marianne? And will her own future as a mother help her find peace?
‘Siân Hughes’s voice moves us because she manages the difficult art of putting wit to the service of strong feeling – a rare achievement.’
‘Haunting, compelling, beautifully written; translates mythic and literary undercurrents into a modern setting.’
‘An utterly gripping psychological mystery.’
‘A ghost story, a folk story, a story of loss and familial haunting, Sian Hughes’ Pearl is an enchanting and eerie exploration of how a child lays down the bones of an ancient past – a medieval poem – as a means of recuperating the voice of lost loved ones. A story about how we tell stories in the face of yawning gaps and deep sorrow.’
‘It’s a beautiful, searching novel from start to finish – vividly told and movingly elegiac in its unfolding understanding of the psychology of loss. A terrific achievement.’
‘Seamus Heaney award winner Hughes takes the classic text of the medieval poem Pearl as the root for this stunning debut.’
—The Sunday Post
‘Hughes’ writing is beautiful, full of details of space and place that give you the sense of being right by Marianne as she lives and breathes. The novel is written in the kind of first person narration that holds your gaze close to whatever the character experiences rather than tells us the story of their lives, with all its accompanying misdirection and philosophising.’