"The Jeweller's Wife" Judith Lennox
An epic tale of love and loss, passion and betrayal, that moves through the turbulence of war to 1960s' London.
The golds and yellows of this book cover are very eye-catching yet calming. I think they capture the essence of the novel - alongside the brief statements promising secrets, affairs and legacy with the added words passionate, dark and tainted. It is indeed very tantalising.
I picked this book because I'd seen a few reviews and I fancied something a bit different- something that I could immerse myself in, much like a very deep bubble bath.
1938. As England awaits the outbreak of war, Juliet Winterton journeys from the Mediterranean to the Essex countryside to begin her life as the beautiful young wife of a London jeweller.
But beneath her husband's intelligence and ambition, lies a cruel and ruthless man. And when dashing politician Gillis Sinclair comes to stay at Marsh Court, Juliet is drawn to his irresistible charm.
So begins a passionate affair that will have consequences far beyond anything Juliet imagines. For Gillis Sinclair is hiding a dark secret and, as the next generation of Wintertons grows up, Juliet fears that they, too, will be tainted by the past...
"The Jeweller's Wife" is 501 pages long. It is a very obviously a saga but it did not feel like an arduous read. Lennox's writing is well paced, she doesn't dwell on overly long descriptive passages, preferring to continue with the plot and dialogue of the protagonists. This allows the reader to sweep through the decades with notable speed.
Initially I did feel a little distant from all the characters as we follow their lives at quite a pace, but this also enables Lennox to follow several character's stories and to span the decades which is indeed the feature of a more epic novel. In fact perhaps it is refreshing to see the whole history of a family played out over the course of time rather than a more intense snap shot of a particular moment.
Juliet, our central protagonist, is an appealing character. She's vulnerable yet brave, intelligent yet undermined by her horror of a husband Henry. There is fairly little that is likeable about him and his desire to humiliate her, patronise her and forever remind her of his financial power over her. I was shocked in the section when he returns home from the war and they see each other for the first time in several years. One always imagines a peachy soft focus, an orchestral soaring of strings and beatific smiles. However, Henry's greetings are "Good God the state of the place," and to his very young son, "His hair needs cutting."
It is therefore a relief when we meet the charming character of Gillis. The contrast between the men is deliberate and obvious. This also helps Lennox explore themes of love and marriage. Juliet with her desperate attempts to try and fall in love with Henry despite his destain for her "sugary, sentimental love" which "blurs vision and judgement." Their unhappiness and Henry's ugliness towards Juliet is unpleasant and makes for a very satisfying melodrama - Henry as a villain and Gillis the knight in shining armour.
However the exploration of love continues. With all great sagas, or stories that span a woman's full life, Juliet has much heartbreak. "She had no talent for love," she reflects at one stage and we are cleverly left hanging at the end of Part Two with her sad thoughts that she "could not ever imagine loving a man again."
The Winterton family house is near a causeway and I found the descriptions, reference and background setting of this very effective. It adds mystery, danger, romance and fear to the story but also a slightly more mystical or ethereal feel. For me too, there are plenty of connotations regarding other stories that use islands and causeways to weave tales of woe and tragedy and I think this helps Lennox exaggerate the twists and turns of the family's story.
This would make a good holiday read or weekend away novel. I would recommend to anyone who likes to immerse themselves in the lives of a whole family or to fall in love with a female lead as they grow from child to woman. There is a lot of historical referencing which Lennox has clearly researched well and this adds further appeal to the characters and their narratives. It's a satisfying read. Lennox shows great skill as a writer in being able to sustain a tale across 500 pages, weaving plots across the decades and touching on such a range of characters, each with their own part of the jigsaw.
I received a copy of this book from Bookbridgr.
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