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Belle - Lesley Pearse

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Author: Lesley Pearse / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 07 July 2011 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd / Title: Belle / ISBN 13: 9780241950364 / ISBN 10: 0241950364

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    3 Reviews
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      12.06.2013 20:36
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      Highly recommended

      In 1910, a young girl named Belle lives in Annie's Place, a brothel run by her mum in Seven Dials and assisted by Mog, the housekeeper. Belle, is a naive and sheltered young lady as she lives in the basement of Annie's place with Mog. She is not allowed above the stairs after 6pm and has very little knowledge of what goes on above the stairs. One day, after falling asleep upstairs, she witnesses the murder of one of the girls who works in the brothel. All of a sudden, Belle's comfortable world is thrown into disarray when she discovers what actually happens at Annie's place and sees someone murdered in front of her very own eyes. She is shipped out of England and sold into prostitution in the most brutal way possible. Despite having a horrendous start to adult life, fortunately, Belle has people in Seven Dials who love her and will do anything for her. She also has self confidence, self belief and a determined attitude. But is it enough to make her survive the ordeal that she's suffering?? I don't want to give away any more of the plot, as it is absolutely brilliant and kept me turning the pages!

      Upon reading the (very brief) blurb on the back of this book, I was slightly disbelieving that Belle could have been naive as to what goes on upstairs. However, she is so stunned, shocked and scared that the reader really feels the utter terror that Belle experiences. Lesley Pearse's description of Belles fear and the events unfolding in front of her is so incredibly detailed that I was completely immersed in this book. Also, during her initial days after being sold into prostitution, again, you feel Belles terror.

      During her time working in prostitution, I realised very suddenly, how much Belle had grown up. I'm not talking in terms of her getting used to her 'job', but more about how much self confidence, belief and courage of her conviction she attains whilst 'working' in such awful circumstances. I think this became most apparent when she leaves Madame Sondheim's, not just for wanting to get away, but making a rational, calculated decision. She is aware that although she begins to enjoy life in New Orleans, surrounded by the glamour of being a courtesan, if can't last forever, with so many threatening factors... what would happen if she became pregnant or caught the pox? Would she end up as one of the down and outs who caught syphilis and in time, became of unsound mind?

      I really felt close to Belle during this novel, as it is so well described that you feel all of her emotions and you really want her to succeed and to become her own person, away from the people who 'own' her. However, the one person that really struck me was Etienne. At the beginning, when he is painted through Belles much younger eyes, as being the low-life who escorted her from France to New Orleans, it was difficult to like him. However, during the voyage you could really see the softer side of him coming to the fore. Later in the story, he changes completely with the events which unfold and at this point, I realised what a good hearted person he is, caught up in terrible circumstances. I really felt his pain for the loss he suffers. Lesley Pearse makes it easy for you to be able to sympathise with what he is also going through.

      What I liked about this book was the way in which Belle, despite being in awful circumstances, is surrounded by people who want to help her. Although they don't appear outwardly to be her saviour, they all play their part in her life.

      This book grabbed my attention from the beginning, I was absolutely hooked on it until the end, and included several nights of me reading in bed almost with matchstick propping up my eyes as I just HAD TO KNOW what happened!

      I purchased this book for just £1.50 from Oxfam, which is an absolute bargain. I am going to purchase the sequel, as I now can't stop myself from finding out the rest of her story. This book is available on Amazon for £5.99, which even at this price, I would highly recommend it!

      I'd not read or really seen any Lesley Pearce books, however, a search shows that her books tend to have a standard theme, of a close up of a female on the front cover. This may be the protagonist of each book, certainly the picture on the front of this book matches the description of Belle!

      I would highly recommend this book to anyone, and I will certainly be reading the sequel!

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      • More +
        18.01.2012 10:06

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        Belle is the heroine we never got told about in the history books.

        I found this book whilst wondering around the shop, as i have currently been swept into the vampire book phenomia I was looking for a book that could get me as excited as these but one that wasn't centred around vampires. I can safely say that I found one in this book as this story had me trapped by the 2nd chapter.
        The story starts with showing the everyday life of this girl who is unaware that she lives in a brothel. The insight into the life of a young girl at this time is something of an eye opener as it is not normal to find a narrator as young as Belle. The author then gets straight into the murder and almost immediatly are trown around the world with Belle as she escapes a number of horrible enemies and meets some un-likly helpful people along the way.
        The story is not your typical story as during the course of the book Belle turns out to have two love interests and there is no clear realtionship even at the end; also she does eventually turn to the trade of her mother and we do wonder how much she can love a person whilst selling her body.
        All in all do not read this book if you are looking for a book all lovey dovey and a complety happy ending, but if you are looking for a dark book where there are lines of confusion as to how good the heroine of the story really is then this book is spot on.

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        03.11.2011 13:55
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        Abducted and sold into prostitution but can Belle escape her nightmare?

        It's 1910, and young Belle has grown up in a brothel run by her mother but she has led a sheltered and innocent life until one night changes everything. After being in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessing the murder of one of the girls at the hands of a brutal client, she is abducted and sold into prostitution abroad. Terrified and alone, Belle wonders if she will ever be able to return home and escape the sex trade.

        Right from the very start, this book is dark. From my brief synopsis, you can tell that it covers some grim subjects. Belle has grown up surrounded by prostitution but is surprisingly naive about what is really involved. That is, until she's snatched from the street and forced into this world herself at just fifteen into her new role of satisfying the desires of men who are often much older. Her experiences are not pretty and it's an uncomfortable read at times. Always at the back of Belle's mind is the hope that she can ultimately get together enough money to return home but there are so many twists and turns along the way and it's not nearly as easy as she had originally hoped. As is typical of Lesley Pearse's heroines, Belle is a strong female.

        Throughout the book, the author does a fantastic job of drawing you into Belle's story and the sordid world in which she now finds herself. It's obvious that a lot of research has been done to capture each location in such detail and create some realistic and larger-than-life characters. I was gripped throughout and finished the book in 2 days, which is very unlike me at the moment as I've been very much dipping in and out of books for the last few months. Although it's a fairly long book it doesn't feel like any of the content is there just for the sake of it and as it's a fast-paced plot, it doesn't feel as long as it actually is.

        If you've read my last review of a Lesley Pearse book, you'll know that I was quite disappointed with that one on the whole and what it was trying to but this is a much more typical example of her work and shows her at her best.

        Browsing the reviews on Amazon I was quite surprised to see some low ratings and people saying that the book is not in the slightest bit believable. It's telling (in my opinion) that these same people admit that they didn't finish the book as the things that they are pointing to are actually quite understandable. For example, they have pointed to Belle's naivety about the goings on in the brothel but it makes sense when you know about her mother's background and what she was trying to protect her from. Belle's lack of attempts to escape are also explained at various points in the book - the people behind these child trafficking rings were violent men who thought nothing of permanently silencing anyone who crossed them and as Belle knew far too much about their 'work', she would almost definitely have been tracked down and dealt with and it really wouldn't have been as easy as climbing out a window and running off! These men were horrific pieces of work who made their money selling young girls and through crime and corruption, after all.

        All in all, I found this to be a fantastic read but as I've already discussed, it's not a particularly pleasant one and may be too dark and gritty for some people.

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