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A novel set in flapper London
The Jewel Box - Anna Davis
Member Name: cerys82
The Jewel Box - Anna Davis
Advantages: good characters, nice story
Disadvantages: Baggy in places, not memorable
The Jewel Box is one of the books that was chosen for the Tesco monthly book club. As such, certain editions to the book have added extras such as interviews and background information about the setting of the novel.
Set in 1920's London, it tells the story of Grace Rutherford who has an alterego as Diamond Sharp, a gossip columnist who writes for a highly regarded newspaper in which she recounts all of the new bars and events that she attends in the newly hedonistic and wealthy pro-war era.
At home, however, the shine of her alternative life is very much faded. She lives with her mother and younger sister Nancy and her two children, both widowed and shadowed in tragedy as a result of the First World War. Whilst devoted to her family, Grace also has a number of skeletons in her closet as a result of her and her sister's lovelives having been hopelessly entangled with a set of brothers, the truth of which is unravelled during the course of the story.
Further to this, Grace obtains the attentions of a handsome and glamorous American author, Dexter O'Connell who has written the seminal novel of the age - 'The Vision'. However, O'Connell's life is also somehow entwined with her neighbour John Cramer as a result of the novel which Grace has spent her adult life being obsessed and inspired by. There is a great deal of resentment between the two men, not least as Grace finds herself involved with the both of them, complicated by the burgeoning relationship between Cramer and Nancy.
On a superficial level, this is quite an interesting novel - due to the fact that it is not a time that is widely written about in this way, particularly not from an English standpoint. The era is described well, and the atmosphere of the various social 'hotspots' that Grace visits and the fashion statements she endorses are evocatively detailed. She is also a largely sympathetic and complex character, torn between the superficial glamour of her assumed lifestyle and the betrayal and sadness which awaits her at home.
The discussions about those lost in the First World War are surprisingly touching, as are her reminiscences of a better time when the family still had the men that they loved with them.
Beyond this, however, this is not a massive amount of depth. Very often it hints at a stronger literary basis and there are lots of shades of the life of F.Scott Fitzgerald and his turbulent personal life. As such, it is almost stuck between two stools - not substantial enough to be memorable or taken particularly seriously , but too baggy and aspirational to be fully a successful part of the 'chick lit' genre.
That said, it is a pleasant enough read and Davis is a more than competent writer. The dialogue and character development are well considered and the story, whilst largely predictable, still contains enough intrigue to keep you reading . It also made me think a lot about the nature of gossip columnist writing at the time it was set and compare it to our new columnist and blogging culture.
In conclusion, this is a fine, enjoyable novel if not particularly dynamic or gripping.
Summary: A pleasant enough read