Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: The Diamond by Julie Baumgold

Title: The Diamond
Author: Julie Baumgold
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2010
Pages: 320

Rating: 4 out of 10

Spanning two centuries, this book tells the story of the famous Regent Diamond, and the many historical figures involved with it, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie Antoinette, and Louis XIV. The diamond is discovered by a miner in Africa, and falls into the hands of the Pitt family. After cutting the diamond into perfection, the Pitts have a hard time finding a buyer. The stone is so priceless, even kings are unable to afford it. When the stone is bought at last, it goes to France. Going from a court wonder to gathering dust in the treasury numerous times, the Regent survives the French Revolution (when it is stolen by commoners) and the Napoleonic Wars.

This book was written very factually, which an incredible amount of detail. You can tell that little of this book is fiction, and it very often reads like a history book. All of the history fascinated me, and I personally love books presented like this. However, if that is not your taste in reading, this probably is not the book for you.

In the beginning, this book was very interesting. The complex historical depth, with just the tiniest dash of fiction, was very well done. However, the other three quarters of the book grew dull, and there were only a few scenes here and there that interested me. The description of the French Revolution was very good, but it is bordered by pages and pages of yawns.
This isn't exactly a long book, but that doesn't stop it from feeling like it, and the author was often going nowhere. I know that with this type of story, it is not realistic to expect a conventional plot-line. However, this book also lacked vision.

I wanted very much for the Regent diamond to become a sort of character in the book, like the Ring in The Lord of the Rings. We are always, always aware of the ring's presence in that story. Here, nothing even close. Often, we would be shown events that had little or nothing to do with the diamond, except that such and such person had seen it once in their lives, or something so insignificant as that. I never actually cared enough about the diamond. It almost seemed that the author had used the diamond to just write an account of France's history, and wasn't actually concerned all that much with the jewel.
The Regent was at first portrayed as possibly cursed, which was what intrigued me the most when I read the inside cover. The slave who steals the diamond from the mines cuts his leg open and hides the diamond inside, only to be killed by a man who wants it for himself. At this point in the story, the author says that the diamond "already had blood on it." A curse is mentioned here and there, but this possible aspect of the story dwindles away after a few pages.

All in all, this book was a little below average.