I was so excited to read The Pear Affair after hearing so many good things about it on twitter. Before reading this I had already drawn comparisons to Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers. Only this time I wouldn’t be leaping across Parisian rooftops, I’d be dashing through underground tunnels.
Like Judith Eagle, I have spent a lot of time in Paris and I share her passion for this wonderful city. Eagle’s love and knowledge of Paris shines through as she brings the city vividly to life and accurately depicts French life. You’ll soon find your mind filled with images of the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine and imagining yourself munching on freshly baked pastries and sipping warm hot chocolate as you walk along grand boulevards passing designer fashion houses.
You’d think with a name like Penelope Magnificent that that individual would have a fabulous life. But Penelope’s, or Nell as she prefers, life is a far stretch from her surname. Her parents, Gerald and Melinda Magnificent who own Magnificent Foods and have used the money to buy their home, Magnificent Heights, make Nell’s life very much not magnificent.
Feeling unwanted and fed up with life Nell is desperate to get away. She despises her parents - Gerald is obsessed with money and Melinda is obsessed with fashion - and is happy to spend as little time as possible with them. So it comes as a bit of a shock when she chooses to accompany them on a business trip to Paris. For in Paris there is someone very important to Nell. Her estranged au pair Perrine, more fondly known as Pear, lives there. She used to write regularly to Nell but the letters have stopped and with that, Nell fears so to has Pear’s promise of one day coming to rescue her. Nell is desperate to find Pear and uncover the mystery as to why her dear friend has suddenly stopped contacting her. Soon Nell finds herself hiding in posh hotel laundry rooms, racing through underground tunnels and trying to uncover a conspiracy that could bring down a city.
This is an epic adventure and is superb middle-grade story-telling. It is a wonderful romp around Paris and The Pear Affair does for the tunnels of Paris what Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers did for its roofs - it brings them alive in a magical and most exhilarating way.
The children in the book are inspiring role models for readers - they are brave and resourceful and each have their own unique back stories - Nell, Soutine the petit pâtissier, Paul and Paulette the twins, Xavier the bellboy. Initial feelings of uncertainty are put aside as they become friends and work together to uncover the truth. The villains are dastardly. In Gerald and Melinda Magnificent, Eagle has created two of the most deplorable parents imaginable. There are villains that make your skin crawl and then there are Mr & Mrs Magnificent. Oh, and let me not forget the Mayor and his assistants Cigarette Holder and Lorgnette.
Eagle’s writing is wonderful and the vocabulary is as rich and as delicious as the pastries that are created at Soutine’s family bakery, ‘Chez Ben Amors’. In chapter one alone there is affectation, paroxysms and nonchalance. The english prose is interspersed with the occasional French phrase and I couldn’t help reading those parts in a French accent. Then there are the lovely chapter headings by Kim Geyer - these just add to the French flavour.
Grab yourself a croissant, pour yourself a ‘chocolat chaud’ and let Judith Eagle sweep you away into a Parisian delight.
Recommended for 9+.