My Grandma and I did not always see eye to eye, in fact it was quite rare that we agreed on very much at all. One thing that we did agree on though was that we both loved a good book, especially a good Lesley Pearse book – we could talk at length over the latest release, discussing the plot twists and the characters. She called such books “Saga’s”. I am not sure if that is their true genre, but realistically they are saga’s in every sense of the word; they are dramatic, often full of harrowing experiences, the characters are dragged to hell and back, and each one is an absolute joy to read. 

Pearse creates strong, realistic characters that are impossible to forget. She reaches out to her audience, pulls them in and forces them to care. Her novels are mixed from a pretty consistent recipe, with elements added in varying quantity and amounts to keep each story fresh and new. 

  • A recent historical setting, early to mid twentieth century – it is very rare that a book is in a contemporary setting;
  • A strong female lead;
  • Bad parenting – there is usually an abusive or negligent parent, sometimes both, or sometimes, no parent at all;
  • A  dashingly handsome lothario;
  • Friendship – usually from an unlikely source;
  • Lots of twists and turns;
  • Dramatic changes in fortune;
  • London;
  • An unlikely hero/heroine;
  • Love and romance;
  • A voyage of discovery;
  • Humour;

Pearse takes these ingredients, she slices, dices, mixes, chops and sautès to perfection; every book that she publishes is a harrowing and emotional journey as she follows the central character in search of a life to call their own.

In “Dead to Me” we meet unlikely friends Ruby and Verity. Dishevelled Ruby has been brought up in Kentish Town, she is street wise, she knows that sometimes she must steal to survive; polite, well dressed Verity has had a very sheltered upbringing in Daleham Gardens, Camden – her mother is a society lady, her father is a business man and she seems to have been brought up mainly by their housekeeper. Polar opposites, they meet by chance on Hampstead Heath and become firm friends over the space of a couple of days where each tutors the other about their own London. An unexpected twist in fate pulls them apart, Ruby is sent to live in Babbacombe near Torquay,  and Verity is taken to Lewisham; the lives of both girls are changed overnight. Despite this, the girls manage to remain friends and confidantes until an act of betrayal rips them apart leaving their friendship in tatters. With England in the grips of war the girls forge very different lives for themselves. They make new friends, learn new skills, but the past is never far away. 

“Dead to Me” is a bumpy ride, full of twists and turns. It is a tale of heartbreak, learning who to trust, a voyage of self discovery and friendship. It is a ‘saga’ that my dear grandmother would have loved, and we would have discussed at length.  

Lesley Pearse is one of the UK’s most popular novelists and has published 25 books –  the first one, “Georgia” was published in 1993, and her most recent, “The Woman in the Wood” was released in July 2017 (currently sitting on my shelf waiting to be read). I would absolutely recommend each and every book; they are, without exception, gripping page turners, crammed full of Pearse’s special alchemy. My personal favourite, and probably the most harrowing of all is “Trust Me”, the story of two orphan girls shipped to an Australian orphanage in the 1950’s, based on the true life scandal of British child migrants in post-war Britain.

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