It’s June already and the sun is shining. I am pleased to share my review for Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell. I was drawn to this novel because of it’s setting, Dubai. My knowledge of this city is minimal but it sounds exotic, stunning and since I’ve sent one of my character’s husband in my WIP out there to work I thought it was time to learn more. Google is great but there is nothing like a good book to bring a place to life. Thank you Random Things Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing me with a copy to read so i could give my honest and unbiased opinion.
Book Review: Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell
Title: Diving for Pearls
Author: Jamie O’Connell
Genre: general fiction, crime
Release date: 3rd June 2021
‘A hugely engaging novel from a talented new writer’ JOHN BOYNE
‘A compelling tale uncovering a world of secrets, injustice and, for the lucky few, escape’
ANNE GRIFFIN, author of WHEN ALL IS SAID
A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city…
A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.
But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?O’Connell expertly weaves a delicate web of intertwining stories, combining dark wit, and devastating emotional truth as fates collide and lives are shattered.
Diving for Pearls has beautiful cover which suits the location of Dubai perfectly, and it was a joy to hold.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel but the premise drew me in as did the location. I knew the bare minimum about Dubai, so this tale was an eye opener because it gave an insight into this city, which can be the provider of dreams and wealth but also horror and poverty. There are many realistic characters all with flaws and it gave a snapshot into their lives against the backdrop of the death of a young woman. It took a while to understand how the protagonists were linked but once the penny dropped, I enjoyed it more.
The main focus is on an Irish family living in Dubai, Siobhan with her sons and her brother, Trevor, who is visiting. It showcased the overwhelming wealth some people have compared to others but also how it can disappear at any point. Wealth and security are superficial and under the surface is fear and corruption. This was horrifying to read. Gete, the family’s maid stood out as the protagonist I loved. She saw it all and was a calming influence when consumerism wins over family time and discipline. Her inner strength and belief shined through. I would love her to have her own sequel so I could see what she does next. This novel reads like a movie, dipping into the lives without lingering so some of the connection I wanted to have with some characters was lost. In the main, I think this style suited the story but some character’s stories felt unresolved.
The strength of this novel was the ability to create a visual scene in my mind mind and transport me to Dubai, I could feel the sand, heat and air conditioning. The location felt real and atmospheric. Usually when this is the case, the location is added to my setting wish list but despite the draw of large fish tank in a mall, this novel has scared me into staying at home.
Would I recommend?
Yes, it’s different and there is plenty to discuss if read as a book club read. I enjoyed discovering the location without the travel. It was well researched with memorable characters. It’s a debut novel I will remember and feel it could easily be translated to a tv series.
JAMIE O’CONNELL has had short stories highly commended by the Costa Short Story Award and the Irish Book Award Short Story of the Year. He has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines Short Story Competition and shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award and the Sky Arts Futures Fund. He has an MFA and MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. He has worked for Penguin Random House, Gill Books and O’Brien Press. Diving for Pearls is his first novel.
Have you ever been to Dubai or read other books set in this location? I’d love to know in the comments below.
Happy reading and writing!