I was surprised to learn that the author of this book was born in the 1960’s. I would have sworn based on the vivid description of 1940’s Sidney that the author had lived through the times. Goes to show what dedicated research for a book can do.
The author, Mandy Sayer, describes the love story between Pearl, an 18 year old white woman and would be jazz saxophonist, and James, an African-American soldier stationed in Sidney. James, at least based on Pearl’s description, is a magician with the saxophone and after hearing him play and recalling her comparable futile attempts at jazz, Pearl decides that James will be her teacher. Of course the relationship goes beyond teaching and the protagonists fall in love. Which is not easy in the 1940’s anywhere, not even Sidney. In part the relationship is complicated due to the experiences of James in 1940’s South. One of his relatives having been lynched for whistling at a white woman, which leaves James is overly cautious and this is much to the chagrin of the impetuous Pearl.
While the interracial dating is not easy in Sidney, the two are able to enjoy their time together, which ends abruptly when James gets shipped off to New Guinea. But as determined as Pearl was to learn to play the saxophone in the New Orleans style of James, as determined is she to pursue James to New Guinea.
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I have to admit that this part of the story seemed a little bit forced to me. It reminded me a little too much of “Some like it hot”, which also involved a saxophone playing jazz musician. But the storyline recovers as Pearl’s experiences of getting to James are described.
Overall, Mandy Sayer produced a fast paced book that mimics in its writing style the eagerness of the youthful Pearl. The story is never boring and covers exciting events such actual battle scenes or attacks on what was up to then a peaceful Sidney. James is clearly the calming pole to Peal’s exuberant energy. Just as opposites commonly attract, so it becomes clear early on that these two are made for each other. I found myself hoping that this couple would enjoy many years ago, maybe in a time without war.