Book review: Survivor by Lesley Pearse

The queen of storytellers returns in a gripping tale of adventure, romance and danger set against the epic backdrop of the Second World War

Survivor by Lesley Pearse
Survivor by Lesley Pearse

Love, treachery and tragedy take centre stage as Lesley Pearse introduces us to Mariette Carrera, the wild, wilful daughter of Belle, charismatic star of the best-selling book of the same name and its follow-up The Promise.

But you don’t need to know Belle to enjoy this sizzling saga which sweeps from the historic town of Russell in the far north of New Zealand’s North Island to London in the Blitz and the perils of Occupied France.

Pearse is one of the UK’s most popular authors of women’s fiction and it’s easy to see why. Survivor is her 22nd novel and confirms her reputation for impeccably researched and exciting stories full of fast-paced drama and passion with a capital P.

Whether she is portraying everyday life or extraordinary events, she has the power to get under the skin of her characters and to pull tightly at our heartstrings.

Mariette (Mari) Carrera is a defiant, strong-willed and reckless seventeen-year-old. She’s been secretly dating the local bad boy and sooner or later, if she stays in the small, gossipy town of Russell, New Zealand, she will get herself into some serious trouble… and pregnant.

Her doting parents, Belle and Etienne, fear for her reputation and even though it’s 1938 and the world appears to be teetering on the brink of war, they reluctantly decide Mari should leave for a fresh start in London.

Nervous but thrilled at the prospect of the new life ahead of her, Mari leaves home on the SS Rimutaka, bound for the palatial home of her godparents Noah and Lisette in St John’s Wood, London.

Armed with the freedom she has longed for since childhood, Mari quickly falls for Morgan Griffiths, the handsome Errol Flynn lookalike steward on board ship who takes care of her when she becomes ill during the voyage.


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But once she reaches London, there are other temptations and Mari is soon caught up in a whirlwind of dances and parties in the glittering West End, relishing her independence as she earns her own money as a typist. For the first time in her life, she is mistress of her own future.

When war is finally declared, Mari’s new life in England is cruelly blown apart when a bomb hits London’s Café de Paris where she is celebrating her 21st birthday.

Forced out of the care and protection of her home with Noah and Lisette, she ends up alone in the East End but Mari is older and wiser now and even in the face of so much despair, she finds the chance to make a difference.

And amidst the destruction, Mari learns that the only way to survive this war is to fight with all the strength and selflessness that has been buried within her...and only then will she find true happiness.


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Mari is a gutsy and gregarious heroine, a born survivor who looks life in the face and never shrinks from its slings and arrows, and her rollercoaster story is played out with Pearse’s trademark compassion, insight and humanity.

An enthralling and addictive story…

(Michael Joseph, hardback, £18.99)