Pearse, Lesley; "Belle"

October 22, 2011 by Linda Jayne Murley  
Published in Women

A shocking and heart-wrenching tale of sex trafficking in the early twentieth century, focused upon the story of one innocent girl abducted and defiled.

Having previously read Pearse’s wonderful “Remember Me”, I had high hopes for this novel and was not disappointed by the talent and gall of this fantastic author. It takes a lot of courage to face writing about one of the world’s most vile illegal activities, human trafficking for the sex trade. Showing the underbelly of prostitution while not condemning women who chooseto make a living this way is not an easy task, but Pearse does it with excellence. The characters are well-rounded and realistic with flaws, but also sometimes surprising the reader with their good sides and strength. This novel shows the best and worst of humanity in a gripping narrative spanning three years. To say this novel is heart-warming must seem odd considering its main theme, but for every evil, lust or money driven devil is a kind-hearted angel willing to do everything he/she can to prevent this disgusting practice from continuing. But the author cleverly highlights the dangers of standing against the kinds of people involved in the “white slave trade” and how fear can be crippling.

The protagonist, Belle, is no flawless heroine, but a strong-willed young woman who shows great courage but, like all of us, makes mistakes too. Abducted for witnessing a heinous crime, the innocent girl grows into an emotionally scarred but determined woman who is faced with many adversaries. As well as tacking the challenging subjects of prostitution, sex trafficking, rape and vice, Pearse also touches on other themes including love, relationships, social pressures and class. Don’t let the subject put you off, this isn’t the depressing read you may think. While never fearing to confront difficult topics, the author doesn’t overload her audience with unnecessary gore, but instead offers enough details to present the situation’s vileness without being gruesome. There are also many periods of light-heartedness and even times when the protagonist is able to enjoy sex with her customers. Also the spilt narrative allows us to follow her friends and family back home who are searching for their beloved Belle, which often gives us a welcome break from the darker scenes of the young woman’s life. This is a book that will appeal more to woman simply because female protagonist’s often do, but I urge men to give it a go too as there are some brilliant male main characters who will allow you to be proud of masculinity, not just angry at those men who make this sort of sex trade possible. An amazing tale, well done Pearse!

A sequel, “Belle’s War” is due out in spring 2012.

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