Pearly Gates – Owen Marshall


The mayor of a small NZ town recalls his successes and failures in the lead up to an election and school reunion.

✚ “Pearly was such a recognisable character it was disarming. We all know a Pearly – a Boomer with such a strong sense of self-assurance and entitlement that Gen Xs and the rest are almost envious.

“Pearly’s a wholly unlikeable man whose unshakeable confidence causes him to act in ways that are morally questionable at best and criminal at worst. Nevertheless he has risen to small-town South Island fame as the local mayor. Along the way the small insights he has into his behaviour are never enough to redeem himself to the reader.

“While I detested Pearly Gates the character I absolutely loved Pearly Gates the novel. On one page I would be judging him from a moral high ground and on the next I would realise with considerable discomfort that I have a bit of Pearly in me. As benevolent and kind as I think I am, of course I also act in complete self-interest sometimes (although hopefully not dropping to Pearly’s low standards).

“The level of introspection this novel engendered along with the awful self-realisation was something else.” – Suzy

✚ “Anyone who reads Pearly Gates will know someone who slightly resembles the main character, Pearly Gates. That air of importance that some think comes as a given with age; the denial of the fragility of life. For this part I think the novel was well written and relevant.

“However I found there was a lack of plot. A nearing-old man meanders through the pages detailing his real estate deals, his mayoral & school reunion committee obligations, his opinions of various people and his memories of his glory days as a young rugby player destined for the All Blacks. I was waiting for a dramatic event to break the monotony of his life, but the monotony of his life is it. There were a couple of interesting events that showcased Pearly’s moral decline which I thought would lead to something bigger but, actually, the characterisation of Pearly is the main event.

“All in all, I appreciate the skill involved in the construction of Pearly but the book did not excite me.” – Rachel

Published 2019
Penguin Random House
288 pages

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