The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck

Title: The Debt of Tamar
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

Rating: Okay.
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!

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!

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.

Comments

  1. Great review. Thank you for your honesty about why you did not like the book as well as other bloggers did. I'll still take a look at it next time I am at Barnes and Noble.

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    Replies
    1. I believe there's an excerpt online -- if not at the author's site then at Amazon -- that might help you see if it clicks for you. Lots of folks are just loving it, so I think it's me!

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  2. Library, yes, cos I'd want to try it

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    Replies
    1. It's worth digging in and trying out -- there's so much going on!

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  3. I liked it, but didn't love it. I wanted more of each story, but I agree that the writing is good.

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    Replies
    1. I definitely wanted more -- rarely do I want books to be double in length, but in this case, more pages would have been awesome, I think.

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  4. It sounds very interesting. I really love the cover.

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    Replies
    1. Isn't it just gorgeous?? I really captures the flavor of the story.

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  5. I would have wanted to read this for the Istanbul setting alone, but after reading the review I'm pretty sure its not for me.

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    Replies
    1. Jess of Ageless Pages described this as a bit of Kate Mosse-style narrative, so if you enjoy Mosse's novels, you might like this one. There's some good descriptions of contemporary Istanbul I found particularly interesting.

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  6. I've been really intrigued by this one! I don't know that I've ever read a book in Turkey or anywhere in that area. And that fact the main character is Jewish, definitely makes me think this is one I'd really enjoy, especially each time I read another great review of it!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, there's so much going on that's so appealing in this book -- the locale and characters in particular. Hope you give it a try and enjoy it!

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  7. Intrigued by the centuries after notion and how the effects last that long (though, especially with the characters being high in society it's believable). Glad to hear it's good if not great - that's good enough to make you want to try it.

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    Replies
    1. It really is an intriguing premise and has gotten lots of love from blogger -- totally worth checking out, I think.

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  8. This does sounds good! I love epic, century long story lines :)

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  9. Hopping over from the What's In a Name Challenge.

    I could see that this would require the right mood to enjoy.

    Joy's Book Blog

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