7 November 2009
Book Review: The Jewel Box by Anna Davis
But when Grace is introduced to her sister Nancy's new friend John Cramer, Grace begins to find herself having feelings for him too even though she knows her sister adores him. As she woos both men, she finds they are bitter enemies but it isn't clear why. Can Grace discover the truth behind the animosity and will she be able be to choose between Dexter and John once and for all?
When I first saw this book, I adored the cover with its blue theme and foil highlights but I wasn't sure the story was my cup of tea. I'm not overly keen on books set in anything but a modern time, but I was really determined to give this a go as it sounded so interesting, and I am really glad I did because I think this is a real gem of a story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This is author Anna Davis' 5th novel - Anna used to work as a columnist for The Guardian newspaper and at a literary agency as well, so she has plenty of experience with writing and this really shows throughout the book.
It begins with the newspaper column of Grace's alter-ego Diamond Sharp and I really loved reading these. They appear every-so-often in the book and are a real look into the nightclub and dancing scene of the 1920's as spoken through the words of Diamond. Davis really allows the character of Grace aka Diamond to let go in these columns, and they are funny to read, light-hearted but perfectly capture the time period in which they are set as well. It's interesting also how easy it is to differentiate between Grace and Diamond and this made me want more and more of the columns as the book progressed. Grace herself though was a wonderful character, very complex and constantly changing, and I found myself sympathising for her circumstances even though she brings most of it on herself!
The male characters of Dexter and John were both very interesting and seemed perfect for 1920's gentlemen. I recently had the pleasure of doing an interview with Anna Davis and she said to me that both male characters are based on author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I can see that without a doubt! When I was reading it, they reminded me somewhat of Gatsby from Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby which I adore, and I just think these men are perfect characters! Dexter is immensly dislikeable, treating women badly and acting the cad with John as his polar opposite but this makes them both work. The puzzling story between the pair slowly unfolds as well and had me hooked throughout the book.
What I really loved about this book was the way in which it captures the life of 1920's people in London so perfectly. We see Grace struggle in her copywriter job because she's a woman, get frowned upon because she loves to go dancing and date men, and its refreshing to see her break the mould in this book. Grace's sister Nancy seems to fit the stereotypical image of a 1920's housewife perfectly, and I found seeing Nancy grow as the book goes on was very intriguing. The book travels around a lot, and Davis has obviously done her research thoroughly with this book because I felt like when I was reading it I was in the 1920's alongside Grace and co!
Although I hadn't expected this book to my sort of thing at all, I thoroughly enjoyed every page. This just goes to show that you should always give things a chance even when you don't expect to like them, but I do suspect that the gorgeous foil-designed cover helped in making me want to read it! It's a great cast of characters, a slowly unfolding story that will keep you guessing and on your toes as it goes on, and most of all you just want things to work out for the lovely Grace. Diamond Sharp is also a great creation for the book and her newspaper columns were one of the most enjoyable parts of the book for me. I'd highly recommend it, it's a fab book of historical based fiction and I look forward to reading more of Anna Davis' work.