It is 1938 and Mariette Carrera is a defiant, strong-willed and selfish eighteen-year-old. And sooner or later, if she stays in the small, gossipy town of Russell, New Zealand, she'll get herself into some serious trouble. Her doting parents, Belle and Etienne, fear for her reputation. So, with the world on the brink of war, Mari leaves home on the SS Rimutaka, bound for her aunt and uncle's house in London.
Armed with the freedom she's longed for since childhood, Mari quickly falls for Morgan, the handsome cockney steward on board ship. But once she reaches London, there are other temptations.
Mari loves her new life - caught up in a whirl of dances and parties in the glittering West End, relishing her freedom as she earns her own money as a typist. Finally, she feels she is mistress of her own future.
Until it is all snatched away by the war.
As London endures the Blitz, Mari's new life is cruelly blown apart. Forced from her loving new home, she ends up alone in the East End, and it's worlds away from the London she knows. But there, even in the face of so much despair, she finds the chance to make a difference. Amidst the destruction, Mari learns that the only way to survive this war is to fight, with all the strength, selflessness and compassion within her...and only then will she find true happiness.
Because Mari is a survivor...
Survivor is published by Penguin on 13 February 2014 and is Lesley Pearse's twenty-second novel. I have been a huge fan of her books for over 20 years now, each of her new releases is highly anticipated and to date, I've never been disappointed.
Survivor continues the story told in Belle (2011) and The Promise (2012), but this is Mariette's story and it really doesn't matter if you've read the others first, this story stands perfectly well on it's own.
1938 in Russell, a small town in New Zealand and Mariette, daughter of Belle and Etienne is strong-willed, a little bit defiant and bored. There is no doubt that if she remains at home for much longer she is going to find herself in all kinds of trouble. The neighbours are already talking about her and her parents decide that London is the best place for their wilful daughter. Mariette sets out on the long journey to Europe, she's going to stay with her parent's friends Noah and Lisette and she can't wait to get away from the isolated town of Russell. Mariette's adventures start before her feet touch English soil - she's a beautiful young woman travelling alone and it is not long before she catches the eye of the Errol Flynn lookalike steward on board. Mariette has been badly hurt in love before and this time she is determined that she will have the upper hand, sadly though it appears that all men really are only after one thing.
In London Mariette throws herself into her new life of glamour and parties, she adores earning her own money and having some independence.
Mariette's life is shattered on the night of her twenty-first birthday. Hitler's bombs do not stop for birthdays and Mariette finds herself alone in a London that no longer appears to glitter with anything except tears. As the war rages Mariette discovers an inner strength that she certainly didn't realise was there. Her wilfulness and sense of adventure serve her well and she grows from a head-strong immature girl into a brave and resilient young woman. Tested by heartbreak and sorrow and faced with terrors that she could never imagine Mariette emerges from the war years with a strength and compassion that changes her whole outlook.
Survivor is another triumph from one of the most engaging authors around. Although Mariette is the central figure of the story, the supporting characters are fabulous too. From the small rural town of Russell in New Zealand to the vibrancy and glitter of London, the sedate and peaceful Somerset and then the horrors of Nazi occupied Northern France this is a passionate and evocative novel that grips from the opening chapter.
Mariette's character develops throughout the story, as she matures and experiences situations that test her to her limits, she grows from a selfish teenage to a strong, brave and compassionate woman. Lesley Pearse has delivered yet another huge story, and despite it's length never feels too long or a chore to pick up. Mariette joins the Pearse stable of strong, likeable heroines. The meticulous research that must have gone into this story is clear throughout.
I'm delighted to say that Survivor is another five-star read and that Lesley Pearse remains one of my favourite authors.
My thanks to Emma from ed public relations who sent my copy for review.
For more information about Lesley visit her website www.lesleypearse.com. Follow her on Twitter @LesleyPearse