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Kamille Roach
A Matchbox Full of Pearls
A homecoming. A secret. A fight for her life… Twenty years old and drifting without purpose, Lola return to the ramshackle house of her childhood in the tiny Western Australian Wheatbelt town of York to attend her foster mother’s funeral. Once there, she’s quickly pulled back into her old life through the familiar surroundings and a familiar man she once loved. When a parting gift from her foster mother reveals clues to a long-forgotten murder, Lola begins to piece things together and is compelled to stay in town. Desperate to keep the only home she’s ever known, Lola must unravel the truth about York, about her foster mother’s past, and above all, about herself. Told with uniquely Australian heart and humour, A Matchbox Full of Pearls is a story of resilience, sacrifice, and the enduring power of lies and love.
Roach threads love and mystery in this impassioned debut. The death of her foster mother Blossom brings Lola back to the small Australian town in which she grew up. After two years of an emotionally sterile existence in Melbourne, Lola must face questions about her life and her relationship with Walshy–her savior, best friend, love of her life, and the reason she left town after her eighteen birthday. At the same time, the usually peaceful Wheatbelt town roils from the reemergence of a serial rapist, and soon Lola finds herself absorbed in another crime from the past: trying to understand why the only thing that Blossom left her points her to the story of Lovely Lorrelai, an exotic dancer who was convicted in the murder of her lover's wife in the 1970s. Before long, Lola starts to wonder if past may be dangerously relevant to the present.

The novel's strength lies in Roach's ability to generate question marks and red herrings that keep readers guessing. She also succeeds in imbuing the story with a great affection for Australian nature (especially in a chase scene), and in imbuing her characters with a strong sense of yearning and love. Lola and Lorrelai are the center of the narrative—to the point of overshadowing everything else—and their parallel stories roll out in a rugged style that matches Lola's bristliness.

The relaxed pacing picks up at Lorrelai's part, though some repeated information in her section still slows down the story, and a stereotypical representation of mental illness that plays into the novel’s bigger revelations, will give some readers pause. Still, Roach utilizes her characters’ back stories to showcase the many facets of love, illuminating its power and potential for destruction at the same time. Readers whose heart strings are compelled by stories about resilience and love will be drawn to this heroine in her search for roots.

Takeaway: An Australian novel of love, mystery, and resilience that finds a woman facing her hometown and past.

Great for fans of: Rhys Bowen’s The Victory Garden, Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-


Lola grew up an orphan and has hopped around since she was young. She found a home with Blossom, her foster mother, and for once felt like she belonged. Now older, she's branched out and is used to living on her own. Only to be pulled back to attend her foster mother's funeral. Blossom left her something, a link to her foster mother's past life. Now Lola must discover the secrets it holds and figure out what it has to do with her and who Blossom was when she was younger.

A Matchbox Full of Pearls is an extremely well-written book that tugs at the heartstrings, is gut-wrenching, funny, realistic, and is an overall emotional rollercoaster ride. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The book starts well, is consistent throughout, and ends strongly. There were a couple of story points I would have liked to be clarified or expanded upon ( I won't say which points because of spoilers). I thought a tighter knot on the finish would have given the reader a little more satisfaction. But that is being picky because the ending was great. I think that because the characters are so well-written that I just wanted to devour everything about them.

Overall, this book was very enjoyable, and the plot flowed great from beginning to end. There were lots of good plot points, and the author does well to throw the reader off the scent. I recommend giving this a read.