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on 11 January 2018
Enjoyed this book. It has a great geographical and historical sweep.
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on 20 August 2014
Interesting book however I thought that the ending was rather weak
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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2002
I purchased this book as part of the Amazon summer sale as it appeared to have an inventive and interesting story line. In fact the story which combines a detective style hunt spanning different time periods is interesting. In addition the description of precious gems and their timeless longevity together with a believable portrayl of Queen Victoria make for an excellent afternoon's reading on the beach.

Unfortunately what is totally unconvincing is the female lead character Katharine Sterne - who is clearly the invention of a male mind. Not many women would accept cigarettes from a taxi driver in a foreign country or for that matter wander around the backstreets of deepest, darkest Turkey looking for a bar to get a beer. Notwithstanding the apparently minimalistic and strange selection of clothes which would not be the first choice in the wardrobe of any women of my acquaintance. My conclusion was that the author intended the character to be male but had to change the gender due to the rather disappointing ending. This is the novels achilles heel as the central character is unconvincing, cold and difficult to relate to so she ultimately lets the story and book as a whole down. This is unfortunate as the idea behind the book and the format of the novel are interesting and allow it despite Ms Sterne to be a good holiday read.
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on 1 January 2011
This is a really fantastic book. Well written, pacey and full of interesting detail. A real page turner from start to finish. The type of book that would suit any reader.
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on 16 January 2015
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VINE VOICEon 18 July 2012
I'd enjoyed Underground and being a sucker for novels with a bit of history I thought I'd give this a try.

It is a tricky book, but ultimately I found a satisfying tale. Two tales; one set in the present day, of Katherine Sterne's search for the jewelled clasp that is the Three Brethren, the other in pre-Victorian London about two Jewish goldsmiths who come to London and whose own story crosses the path of the Brethren.

The second of these is perhaps the more satisfying as London is vividly painted, and the relationship between the brothers explored.

Katherine Sterne's story is more difficult and seems to have caused some reviewers problems. She is not particularly sympathetic and her obsession with the jewel never really explained. But I found her intriguing; she certainly doesn't fit any stereo type, and ultimately warmed to her a little by the end. Who says central characters have to be sympathetic?

Despite some thrillerish touches this isn't really a thriller and not particularly plot driven. I think it's more about obsession and the price we may pay for that.

Hills is a poet and his prose may not be too everyone's taste but I found it engaging.

Worth sticking with
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on 9 March 2016
A book that I have reread countless times. The writer follows the journey of The Three Brethren, a priceless jewel from its origins to its ultimate destination. The book has two narratives, one by the woman trying to track it down, and one from the Victorian Jews who were given the stones as a gift. The depiction of Victorian London is superb - I write Victorian crime fiction, and recognise a 'master' voice when I read one. The prose is beautiful and lifts effortlessly off the page, often leaving you breathless by a phrase or expression. I believe the writer is also a poet. It shows. Not a clunky bit anywhere. I have read other books by this author - he seems to be unjustifiably neglected. Do seek him out. He will repay the journey.
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on 25 July 2002
I only bought this book because Tobias Hill is judging a fiction competition I was planning to enter and I was interested to see what kind of fiction he wrote. I thought this was an exceptional novel and images and passages are still lingering on in my mind many weeks after finishing it. The prose is simple, poetic, fluid and beautiful and I personally found it very easy to relate to the characters, especially Katherine and Daniel. Other reviewers have criticised the apparent lack of established motivation for Katherine's quest for the Three Brethren but in my opinion this is a strength, not a weakness. In fact I found it a refreshing change from much contemporary literature, which sometimes over does its exploration of characters' psyches in its attempt to account for their every action. An obsession without grounding is both more realistic and more powerful than one that is mapped out in endless psychological detail. I was almost obsessed by the Three Brethren myself by the end. I also thought Hill did an excellent job of writing from a female view point - not every author is competent at adopting the perspective of the opposite gender. And to write competently and empathically about such a passive character as Daniel demonstrates great skill. I particularly liked Hill's character descriptions taken from portraits - it's almost as if he could see deeper into the souls of the sitters than did the original artists. Finally, Hill has a way of pacing his prose that forces you to read slowly - as a confirmed speed reader this was a new and satisfying experience for me and one I hope to repeat. As another reviewer said, the novel is not flawless, but that is definitely part of its charm.
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on 27 December 2009
What makes life worth living? Love of family, fulfilling ambition or the possibility for self-understanding?

The lives of a nineteenth century Mesopotamian jeweller and a twentieth century jewel hunter intersect, as Katherine Stern travels back in time to the origins of an intriguing crown jewel, only to track it forwards, coming ever closer to the meaning of her own loneliness.

This novel has something for everyone: there's whole worlds of detail, atmosphere and character ranging from medieval Europe to postwar Japan; the exquisite writing typical of all Hill's stories (and this one is as different to the others as always) and a shifting sense of visceral human need and values that constantly prompts the reader to question their own viewpoint; and yet all held together by an unlikely personal journey and, finally, the prospect of real love.

The complex plot, moving between nineteenth and twentieth centuries, orient and occident, empire and metropolis, demands attention - not one to put down lightly, though you're not likely to want to - but, while constantly challenging, like all good books it's about the journey not the conclusion.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 January 2003
Filled with loads of fascinating facts about rubies, pearls, and diamonds, and bursting with historical information about Elizabethan and Victorian England, 19th century Baghdad, and the traders, dealers, and smugglers of the gemstone trade, this is a captivating novel of one woman's obsession with The Three Brethren. A "jewel" created for Queen Elizabeth and consisting of four pearls, three balas rubies, and a pyramid-shaped diamond, The Three Brethren mysteriously vanishes during her reign, and a very tough, modern woman, Katharine Sterne, is tracing and hoping to find it.
Author Hill keeps the reader's interest high by telling two intriguing, parallel stories--that of contemporary Katharine as she travels from London to Turkey and Japan in her search, and that of the two Levy brothers, Jews in 19th century "Mesopotamia," who find some jewels which they expect will allow them to begin a new life in Victorian England's jewel trade. Largely avoiding the excessive romanticism which this subject might have engendered, Hill matches his prose style to Katharine's obsessive, business-like approach to her jewel-hunt. Nothing else really matters to her, not even family, and Hill's prose echoes the urgency of her search, tending toward efficient, straightforward sentences of fact, with limited description and none of the lyrical flights so common to historical novels.
I found this to be both a virtue and a limitation. It does prevent this big novel from becoming soupy with sentiment. It also keeps the reader moving rapidly through several countries, time frames, and sometimes complex plot details. On the other hand, it is difficult to care much about Katharine's search when we cannot identify with her--we do not know, really, what she looks like or even how old she is. Perhaps this lack of an emotional hook is the reason that Hill, near the end of the book, inserts a number of melodramatic subplots, leading to an ending which is both sentimental and, I thought, unconvincing with its moralizing--too pat as it pertains to Katharine and her search. Still, this is loads of fun for lovers of jewels and history, terrific escape reading. Mary Whipple
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