The Pearl Sister

Written by Lucinda Riley
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 2007, CeCe (Celaeno) D’Aplièse is on an airplane. She sees the intermittent groups of twinkling lights below, one resembling the Pleiades cluster, the “Seven Sisters,” after which her Swiss billionaire father had named her and six other baby girls he’d adopted from around the world. Only upon his death did CeCe learn something about her biological family. Her inheritance envelope had contained an old photograph, the name Kitty Mercer, and the coordinates of a remote town in Australia. Dyslexic, CeCe left art school in London and, after a brief stopover in Thailand where she encountered another mysterious billionaire, she arrives in Australia seeking her past.

In 1906, eighteen-year-old Kitty is coerced by her adulterous clergyman father into accompanying a wealthy lady from Scotland to Australia. There, Kitty is introduced to the Mercer family, who operate a lucrative pearl fishing business. Kitty soon discovers that in Australia, anybody “could reinvent themselves to be anyone they chose.”

This fourth novel in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series is brilliantly written. Reading like a stand-alone, it’s full of evocative details about cities, the countryside, flora, and fauna, which makes the scenes come alive. Separated by nearly a century, the characters’ storylines and dialogue are captivating and hold our interest. We learn much from CeCe’s explorations and visits to Thai temples, and her venture into the Australian Outback and the Never Never, while searching for her heritage. Similarly informative are Kitty’s pioneering life in the Australian pearling industry and the inclusion of Aboriginal characters: the facets of their lives, their artwork, and the discriminatory treatment they receive. Also, it was elating to discover that the Pleiades’ Seven Sisters form part of the Aboriginal cultural myth. Not surprisingly, the books have been optioned for a TV series. Highly recommended.