The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck
Author: Nicole Dweck
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 16th Century / Judaism / Turkey / Ottoman Empire / Contemporary / Family Saga / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Devon House Press (2/4/2013)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Two families are connected by loss and love over the centuries.
Reading Challenges: E-book, Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories, NetGalley & Edelweiss, What's in a Name?
Do I like the cover?: Love it -- it's so striking!
I'm reminded of...: M.L. Malcolm
First line: He may well have been the happiest orphan in the world.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow.
Why did I get this book?: Heard rave reviews from blogger I trust, especially Amy of Passages to the Past, and I was intrigued!
Review: Opening in the 16th century, this novel follows two families separated by culture, but connected by love. The titular Tamar is a young Jewish woman educated in Istanbul after her family escaped Spain during the Inquistion. Tamar has fallen in love with the Sultan's son, Murat, but her father doesn't approve of their match and sends Tamar away. The rending heartbreak Murat suffers is the debt her descendents must repay.
Dweck's novel dips in and out of the centuries to follow each family: Tamar's through Europe during the 20th century and Murat's in contemporary Turkey. Sweeping across the centuries, this is a novel of family and love, the deep connections between people that can span decades.
This book was high on TBR based on a lot of swoony love from bloggers I like and trust, but sadly, I was underwhelmed. For whatever reason, it just didn't quite hit me right, emotionally: I found the character development to be thin, the moments of collision and interaction between folks rushed.
Still, there's much I liked in this book. I was delighted to read a novel featuring a Turkish protagonist and I enjoyed the armchair travel to both historical and contemporary Istanbul, a city I just love.
I found Dweck's writing to have an imaginative, poetic quality at moments, like this passage, on the yellow star stitched onto the clothes of Jewish residents in 1940s Paris: "In every conversation, the star was like a third character, an unwanted interloper hovering dismally over every encounter, lurking suspiciously over seemingly innocent tête-à-têtes." (p298)
For those who enjoy big family-ish sagas, plot lines that encompass centuries, and exotic locales, this book is for you!
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I'm thrilled to offer a paperback copy of The Debt of Tamar to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only, ends 3/28.