The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle, and illustrations by Jo Rioux
Format: Paperback ARC
Publisher: Walker Books US
Number of pages: 266
Published: April 26th, 2022
Source: Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review
Opening Line: "You would think, thought Nell as she aimed a kick at one of the marble cats that sat on either side of the front door, if you named your daughter after your favorite handbag, you would cherish her as much, if not more, than you cherished the bag."
12-year-old Penelope "Nell" Magnificent's parents own Magnificent Foods and ever since she was a little girl, she's had an au pair, Perrine aka Pear who's cared for her. That is until Nell turned seven and she was packed up and shipped off to a boarding school, and Pear returned to France, leaving Nell with only the fond memories of the happy times she'd spent with her beloved Pear, and the letters Pear sent her religiously for five solid years. But six months have gone by and not a single letter has arrived making Nell fearful that something terrible has happened, as Pear promised she would return one day to rescue her. Then upon arriving home for a vacation from boarding school, Nell finds her parents getting ready to leave for a Paris business trip, and they reluctantly agree to allow her to come, it is too late after all to get a Nanny to stay with her. Once in Paris, Nell knows she can find Pear, she's studied everything about the city, explored all the maps and knows just where to look for her, but Pear's not at her apartment, or at her work and seems to have disappeared without a trace. Dejected, Nell then has a chance encounter with a bus boy, Xavier, from the hotel they're staying at, who offers to help her find Pear. Soon Nell is traveling the tunnels beneath Paris, visiting couturier shops, and uncovers a plot that connects the major of Paris, Pear, and her parents with a mysterious spore that is contaminating the bread of all the bakeries of Paris.
The Pear Affair takes place during the 1960's in Paris. Being in the mood for a mystery and of course having Paris on my wish list of places to visit, this was a perfect escape read. I enjoyed learning more about the Paris Catacombs, visiting the various settings with Nell and her new friends, and the glorious mention of pastries and hot chocolate will make your mouth water. Many reviewers on Goodreads have compared this to Katherine Rundell's Rooftoppers, Matilda, Madeline, Harriet the Spy and even Alice in Wonderland, which is just a perfect description. I can see aspects of each of these books in The Pear Affair. You really feel for Nell and her lack of familial affection, how she lost the one person who loved her. And Nell's parents are loathsome people, they'll really remind you of Matilda's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, obsessed by money and fashion. I mean who could name their daughter after a purse? Nell is a very likeable character, determined in her quest to reunite with her dear friend. The authors passion for the city certainly shines through and although this can be read as a standalone, I'd certainly enjoy more adventures set in Paris with Nell and her friends. The illustrations by Jo Rioux complemented the book very well and although my ARC didn't include the final artwork, I quite enjoyed the black and white sketched illustrations. If you're looking for a little Paris adventure, I hope you'll check out The Pear Affair. **A huge thank you to Candlewick Press for the ARC paperback**