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Monday, 27 October 2014
Love And Treasure
Love And Treasure
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of Bookbridgr and the publisher
It all starts with a jewelled pendant, in the shape of a peacock in the colours of purple, white and green, and a an American infantry captain's quest to return it to it's true owner after he removes it from the Hungarian Gold Train he was guarding in Salzburg in 1946. We see said infantry Captain, a dealer in art stolen by Nazi's and a pioneering psychiatrist all have their lives turned upside down by three women, all of which have a connection to said pendant, and we see the story of the pendant and those who have come to own it at one time or another. We see the women fighting their history and the history of our times, we see our characters connected to the pendant caught up in the flow of European History, and see the pendant become many different things, a gift to a friend, an offering to a lover, and an unlucky talisman as some would see it.
Love And Treasure takes us on a journey through the very turbulent, and quite often harrowing, history involving war, revolution, still present prejudices present in certain parts of Europe, scars left from said war, feminism and suffragettes, and we see a vast range of different emotions, and this is one story that is going to stay with you.
We travel from Salzburg, post war, 1945-1946 to Budapest and Israel in 2013, then on to Budapest in 1913, then New York in 1948 going backwards and then forwards and then backwards even further to trace the original owner of the pendant, and I have to say, it was fascinating finding out one version of the story, how the locket came to be in a place where Jack could take it, his morals explained and therefore his need to have it returned to its original owner. After all theft was a rather meaningless crime in the grand scheme of things, but it weighed on him and he needed it to be returned. The fascinating part came in part two, when we're in 2013 and Jack's Granddaughter Natalie is looking for the owner of the necklace, you then discover that a painting features a woman wearing it, said woman is researched as is her friend, and you follow the conclusions the characters draw on finding out about this woman's life. Then you go to 1913, which is the woman in the paintings story of sorts, to discover everything you thought, was wrong. The necklace wasn't originally hers it was gifted, and you discover the origin and circumstances of the picture found in 2013, the scandalous incident at the Opera and what really happened there, but was so sensationalized in the papers and didn't show the truth. But more on this later because there's a specific thought I had that I'll go in to more detail on.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but I was very surprised that we didn't get the point of View of the ladies, I started out reading thinking it made sense it was in Jack's point of view first, I then expected to have Natalie's and then Nina's, so it was a surprise that it was from the point of view of the men in their life and even more surprising in Nina's case, that it was from her Doctors point of view and not her husbands. It was fascinating to read the story from the males point of view, of them falling in love with these fiery women who are so strong, I felt, and have strong beliefs. I was very curious about what eventually happened to Ilona! But I really enjoyed hearing the stories from the men's point of view instead of the womans, particularly the Doctors and his unrequited love, it was incredibly well done.
For me, the narrative, was at times haunting, particularly the post war parts, at times it was just as funny and thrilling and entertaining as it was harrowing and tragic and downright heartbreaking. It was engaging through and through and impossible to put down, it was quite emotional for me, from sorrow to outright rage at some points.
I was a history student by choice, and for one set of my exams there was a school trip to Berlin to look at the wall and so on, on the last day we visited Sachsenhausen, and to be quite honest, that is one memory that I will never forget, and I will remember in exquisite detail, and a lot of those feelings, came bubbling back to the surface when I was reading certain parts of this book, as well as images from it, so perhaps the heartbreak and the sadness I felt was stronger than other readers because of that, but I think it's the quality of the writing that will cause people to tear up when reading certain passages.
I particularly enjoyed how the author wrote about such things, the Holocaust and other matters without romanticizing it or over dramatizing it, she wrote it with the correct amount of respect and severity it deserved.
The world building was all encompassing, atmospheric and vivid, the characters where well written, complex and came to life right off the page. The plot was complex, and expertly wove threads through time to connect everything together. For instance, the 7 dwarves Jack mentions seeing in the parade, we then find out that Gizella was one of 7 siblings, I'm not sure whether the dwarves in the parade where Gizella and her siblings, or whether you supposed to believe that or whether they were nothing to do with Gizella but either way it was a connection none the less, and there where so many little things as well as big things linking the different people together. You where kept guessing, as to the identity of the owner of the necklace, thinking it was Nina then finding out it was not, you learn information as the characters to and you draw your own conclusion or theory and then wait to find out if it's right or wrong. Love And Treasure is truly beautifully written.
Now the specific thought I had that I said I'd mention later. As you learn information as the characters do, at the point before Nina's story, you just knew she was the subject of the painting, and that she was married. I had assumed, which I really shouldn't have considering the time, that her marriage was most likely a happy one or at least a regular marriage, but no, we learn that poor Nina had to marry this guy to save herself and Gizella and he was a total dick. He had "affection" for her, but she quite obviously didn't like him or want to marry him, she was going to be forced to by her parents, much like she was forced to meet with him and forced to eat food he ordered for her. She could have gotten away from it, but to save her friend and herself she had to marry him so they could get out of being sent to prison, and she had to stop studying medicine. Quite frankly, this guy was a total dick "someday I might forgive you" or whatever he said....mate she doesn't want your forgiveness you knob, she doesn't even like you. I don't know why but that learn pretty much infuriated me as much as the entire the situation.
I literally felt so much outrage in all of the sections for how the female DP's where treated, how the horrendous guy who had the painted was such an ass, still so prejudiced against Jews and I can't even with how outraged I was that his family pretty much stole the house then murdered the rightful owner when he came back to claim it and was acting like it was such an affront he would only get 10% of the money from a painting THAT WASN'T EVEN HIS. It's mind blowing, if it's true, that no-one did anything to get them back their houses. Then the way women, especially Nina where treated at that time, I can't even. I'm one of those people that gets really outraged on behalf of others whether they need me to or not, I really can't help it, but this book just made me think so much about how women where treated, and still are. I really liked, actually, that the Doctor who treated Nina, while at first seemed to not take seriously the things she would say of the feminist persuasion and arranged marriage etc, I mean she was right, it was pretty much the girls being sold to whoever, and then at the end, he'd changed his opinion about women physicians, lamented the potential loss of knowledge at the lack of them, and did not force his daughter to marry the man she didn't want to. It was a happy turn of events, I thought, in a section that was full of such unfairness, much like the other sections.
I'm not sure if it was the authors intent to inspire that particular feeling, or just get people thinking, but either way it's a fascinating and thought provoking read. I seriously don't know what I was expecting from this book, but it has become one of my favourites of the year and I will seriously start shoving it at people until they read it because it is truly astounding, and just.....amazing. The setting, the world building, the characters, the history, the view points....amazing.