Kamille Roach’s novel, A Matchbox Full of Pearls, is a fascinating, hypnotic tale of survival, love, and finding home, set in the harshly gorgeous landscape of Western Australia.
When her foster mother Blossom dies, 20-year-old Lola Harris returns from Melbourne to York and collides with the delicious-but-footloose Walshy, her childhood protector and first love, who is now dating her girlhood friend Shelley. Then, home at the Flower House, Lola unearths a hidden sketchbook that casts new light on Blossom’s obsession with an old crime: the 1971 conviction of dancer Lorrelai McAllister for the drowning death of her lover’s wife. But there’s a more present menace at hand: a new attack from the serial rapist whose crimes shattered the community years before.
As the story evolves, it jumps back to 1971, when young Lorrelai lands in a caravan park outside York, meeting handsome Ned Del Saur. Lorrelai finds refuge with Ned and his young child, while Ned’s wife, Dora, is lost to a madness and addiction. Back in the present day, Lola must employ all her wits to survive when her quest to unravel Lorrelai’s mystery draws out another would-be murderer, and the secrets she uncovers will shake everything she knows about herself.
The book is lovely and harrowing, with swift, incisive prose that captures the wild rawness of Lola’s emotional state. Haunted by the sense of rootlessness born of the losses of her foster child background, she notes: “That’s the thing with not belonging. Nothing is really yours. Not family photos. Not even your bedroom. You get used to nothing being your own. To walking away.”
The severe beauty of the landscape leaps from every page in vibrant detail. Cruelty abounds in this setting, yet veins of kindness run deep and true. As the tendrils of the past work their way into the present, the story’s revelations are satisfying and perfectly timed.
Readers will hang breathlessly on every twist of this affecting, gorgeously realized debut.
Also available as an ebook.