Feathered Quill Book Reviews: Black Inked Pearl: A Girl’s Quest, by Ruth Finnegan – “A highly atypical romance tale, a must read for those who desire a deeper understanding in the realm of love!”
Finalist in the “Visionary Fiction” category, 10th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards. Black Inked Pearl: A Girls’s Quest, by Ruth Finnegan, is available for purchase in hardcover, paperback, and as an ebook.
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-942146-16-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-942146-17-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-942146-18-6
Hardcover and Paperback: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
eBook: Apple iBooks, Kobo eBooks
“Finnegan spins a refreshing, one-of-a-kind love story in her epic novel Black Inked Pearl”
Kate is fifteen years of age at the time she meets her enigmatic lover by the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal, Ireland. Although entranced, Kate’s youth and inexperience push her to immediately reject her lover. Under the tutelage and spiritual instruction of the nuns at convent school, Kate finds herself vacillating between feelings of guilt and desires for pure love. As a result, Kate longs to be in her lover’s presence, constantly keeping to a dreamy state. Growing up in Ireland, “she knew her fate was a quiet, gentle one. Among the paths of faerie, Tir na nOg, enchanted dreams and histories…Just an ordinary girl. In a magical world.”
Years later as a successful young businesswoman, Kate appears to put away childish things, finding many yet superficial loves en route. Traveling to the Congo in Africa, Kate is caught off guard when she listens to a storyteller’s version of the Garden of Eden story. It is in the retelling that her heart is stirred and she once again finds herself longing for the presence of her lover. In her quest for love and happiness, Kate makes her way to various places—both corporeal (i.e., Donegal, Ireland; St. Pancras, London; an old-aged home) and intangible (i.e., hell, heaven, and Eden). Although Kate is often in a quandary about life and love, her viewpoint begins to change when she meets a beetle that points her in the right direction and literally out of the pit of hell.
Finnegan’s writing style transcends all concepts, definitions, and boundaries of storytelling, leaving readers to draw their own interpretations. Using a combination of prose and poetry, Finnegan weaves in segments of secular and sacred works of Shakespeare, Rumi, W. B. Yeats, Wittgenstein (philosopher), Homer, William Blake, Milton, Rider Haggard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as various Christian prayers within Kate’s quest for true love. Finnegan’s third person narrative keeps to a near lilting style reminiscent of Irish literature that carries its own trance-like quality. Since Finnegan’s plot constantly highlights allusions, it is difficult to tell when scenes shift from reality to surreal and vice versa.
That said, Kate’s journey evokes a progressive dream. Indeed, many scenes are replete with nonsensical situations, people, beasts, celestial beings, and to top the list, a talking beetle. Considered one of God’s lowly creatures, the beetle (nicknamed Mickey, which the beetle finds disrespectful so the name is only mentioned once) functions to some extent like Jiminy Cricket, encouraging Kate (so-to-speak) to “let her conscience be her guide.” With so many references to God and Kate’s self-awareness, one could easily interpret that Kate is on a spiritual quest and that her search for true love begins with loving herself first and foremost.
Quill says: A highly atypical romance tale, Black Inked Pearl is a must read for those who desire a deeper understanding in the realm of love!
“A highly unusual story filled with literary and biblical illusions and new words.”, Joyce Irene Whalley, Author ofThe Art of Calligraphy and A History of Children’s Book Illustration, Previously Keeper, Victoria and Albert Museum London
“Amazing! I enjoyed it tremendously; it’s light, floating, visual – I am back in Donegal of a long time ago – good …” –Dasck Eve Defin, Literature teacher, Birmingham, Author of the historical memoir Indulgence
“It all started to hang together for me and become increasingly clear as a message for me and where I am at the moment – to open myself to new areas of experience, some of which may be painful (I hope not!); the message of the book is that there is a route to be found. I welcome the contact with things beyond my normal frontiers. It has been a valuable experience reading it.”- Jim Graham, School Counsellor, Southampton, England
“The book-poem-narrative is very exciting and touches my heart in many ways — poetic, personal, verbal/creative, emotional …“ – Patrick Bond, Nature poet, Lewes East Sussex
“It’s certainly a big change from Ruth’s earlier books, which I happen to admire very much. I loved the bits where the poetry is so closely linked with her childhood memories.” – Professor Paul Thompson, Oral historian, London
“I’m reading (and enjoying) The Black-Inked Pearl. Echoes of Joyce, and Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s narrative style inSunset Song …” – Morag Grant, Scottish music researcher
“I’ve been enjoying the very evocative chapters on Donegal. I like the way it plays with language and the poetic stream of consciousness. and there’s definitely a strong sense of a teenager awakening to adulthood in all sorts of ways!” – Janet Maybin, Schools literacy specialist, The Open University
“A lovely novel. What an extraordinary achievement, to switch from academic writing to this imaginative and exploratory fiction. I saw some of the author’s scholarly preoccupations coming through, notably the role of memory and quotation, and I loved the way Kate’s reflections are so bound up with poetry. The assemblage and juxtaposition of genres struck me as having an effect very much in keeping with African-language prose fiction, where genre boundaries are constantly breached and where long passages of oral poetry might be incorporated into a descriptive or narrative sequence. Very many very warm congratulations on pulling this off. I was fascinated to read about the starting point in a long series of dreams: the novel itself is a dream.”, Professor Karin Barber, Departments of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham, UK
“Different, fresh. I loved the stream of consciousness Joycean style. Trance-like.” – Denise Saul, Poet and fiction writer, Winner of Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice 2007, London
“Thoroughly enjoyable.” – Yvette Purdy, University Course Manager, Milton Keynes
“Gripping.” – Rachel Backshall, Classics student, University of Oxford
About The Book
An epic romance about the naive Irish girl Kate and her mysterious lover, whom she rejects in panic and then spends her life seeking. After the opening rejection, Kate recalls her Irish upbringing, her convent education, and her coolly-controlled professional success, before her tsunami-like realisation beside an African river of the emotions she had concealed from herself and that she passionately and consumingly loved the man she had rejected.
Searching for him she visits the kingdom of beasts, a London restaurant, an old people’s home, back to the misty Donegal Sea, the heavenly archives, Eden, and hell, where at agonising cost she saves her dying love. They walk together toward heaven, but at the gates he walks past leaving her behind in the dust. The gates close behind him. He in turn searches for her and at last finds her in the dust, but to his fury (and renewed hurt) he is not ecstatically recognised and thanked. And the gates are still shut.
On a secret back way to heaven guided by a little beetle, Kate repeatedly saves her still scornful love, but at the very last, despite Kate’s fatal inability with numbers and through an ultimate sacrifice, he saves her from the precipice and they reach heaven. Kate finally realises that although her quest for her love was not vain, in the end she had to find herself – the unexpected pearl.
The novel, born in dreams, is interlaced with the ambiguity between this world and another, and increasingly becomes more poetic, riddling and dreamlike as the story unfolds. The epilogue alludes to the key themes of the novel – the eternity of love and the ambiguity between dream and reality.