The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck
Kindle eBook, 332 pages
Devon House Press
January 23, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received for review as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour
“During the second half of the 16th century, a wealthy widow by the name of Doña Antonia Nissim is arrested and charged with being a secret Jew. The punishment? Death by burning. Enter Suleiman the Magnificent, an Ottoman "Schindler," and the most celebrated sultan in all of Turkish history. With the help of the Sultan, the widow and her children manage their escape to Istanbul. Life is seemingly idyllic for the family in their new home, that is, until the Sultan's son meets and falls in love with Tamar, Doña Antonia's beautiful and free-spirited granddaughter. A quiet love affair ensues until one day, the girl vanishes.
Over four centuries later, thirty-two year old Selim Osman, a playboy prince with a thriving real estate empire, is suddenly diagnosed with a life-theatening condition. Abandoning the mother of his unborn child, he vanishes from Istanbul without an explanation. In a Manhattan hospital, he meets Hannah, a talented artist and the daughter of a French Holocaust survivor. As their story intertwines with that of their ancestors, readers are taken back to Nazi-occupied Paris, and to a seaside village in the Holy Land where a world of secrets is illuminated.
Theirs is a love that has been dormant for centuries, spanning continents, generations, oceans, and religions. Bound by a debt that has lingered through time, they must right the wrongs of the past if they're ever to break the shackles of their future.”
The Debt of Tamar is difficult for me to categorize. There are really three different stories being told within these pages and they are all connected in ways, but I struggled to enjoy them as a cohesive selection. The story that I was most committed to comes at the start of the novel – that of 16th century Spain and Ottoman Empire. I thought the historical details here were interesting and presented well. I haven’t read much set in this place and time and I was hoping for so much more of it. I was interested in the characters presented here. As Tamar is the titular character I was hoping to actually know more about her, but she is really just a passing shadow here and I don’t really get what her “debt” was – I wasn’t convinced.
However it abruptly shifts gear when it moves into the 1940’s France and then into modern day Istanbul/United States. Each of these subsequent sections are supposed to build on the earlier 16th century story ultimately bringing us back around to this titular debt. But it just didn’t work for me. I found it harder to connect to these new sets of characters and their stories. I didn’t get enough to really care about them.
The way it ended felt unresolved to me and I was hoping for a little more concrete connection to the “debt”. The 16th century story and the modern day story needed more resolution. The Paris and modern stories also needed to be fleshed out more. The experience of reading it felt like it had been cut down for a page length and hoped it would resolve itself.
This was in no way a bad or boring book – I just didn’t quite love its presentation. It had the potential to be a great time shift/hist-fic but just missed the mark.
This is author Nicole Dweck’s debut novel. You can visit Nicole’s website for additional information about the book.
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