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Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’ Connell

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Literary Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’ Connell is published with Doubleday Ireland (Penguin Books Ireland) with the Irish Times stating that ‘it’s tough to link so many narrative threads without clunky transitions or a loss of character depth, but O’Connell pulls it off with aplomb, breathing authenticity into each character’s world… An often dark and poignant read that will fully engage the reader from the outset.’

Diving for Pearls is set amidst the glamour and bright lights of Dubai. As the crowds go about their business around the flashy marina, no one initially notices the woman floating, arms outstretched, in the water below. Her name is Hiyam Husayin. Like a ripple is a pond, Hiyam’s death affects six people in ways they least expect and lives are changed forever.

Aasim is a student in Trinity College Dublin.
Siobhan is married to Martin. They are Irish expats living a comfortable life in Dubai.
Trevor is Siobhan’s brother. He is embarking on a trip to Dubai to refocus on his life.
Tahir is a taxi driver in Dubai with a family at home in Pakistan. His life is very tough but he is determined to provide for his family.
Gete is from Ethiopia and is a young maid working in Dubai, sending what she can afford back home to her struggling family.
Lydia is a Russian sex-worker hoping to provide a better life for herself among the ostentatiousness of Dubai.

When I think of Dubai I think of shimmering lights, fast cars and dripping jewellery, with images of glittering skylines, an azure sea and the scent of oud capturing my senses. But is it all a façade? What really lies beneath this glistening image? Jamie O’ Connell takes the reader behind the scenes into the homes and minds of his characters as they all struggle with their lives. Dreams and aspirations are oft-times shattered as reality comes crashing down. Society’s expectations can be too heavy a load to carry. The veneer dulls, the truth realised and lives disassemble, leaving broken dreams and bodies in its wake.

There is a dead body central to the story and yet it does not feel like a murder mystery as Jamie O’ Connell delves deep into the underbelly of Dubai shattering illusions and highlighting the deceptiveness of appearances. Each character is wonderfully depicted bringing them very much alive as their thoughts and dreams are slowly revealed.

Diving for Pearls is a tragic novel that leaves the reader questioning and craving more. I was invested in many of the characters, left bereft on closing the final page but that is what makes this book very special. Like Dubai its appearances can be deceptive. There are very strong themes of greed, poverty, shame and regret. It is a harsh glimpse of life in Dubai. Peel away the top layer and what will you discover….

Diving for Pearls is a fascinating and offbeat novel, which is what makes it such a compelling read. A seductive tale, Diving for Pearls is a wonderful debut from this talented Irish writer.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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