Monday, March 03, 2014

Joint review: The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck

Today I am pleased to be participating in a discussion style review of The Debt of Tamr by Nicole Dweck with Kelly from The Written World. My thoughts are in black and Kelly's in purple. Don't forget to head on to Kelly's blog to read the second part. Alternatively head over to Historical Tapestry where you can read the whole thing and there is a also a chance to win a copy of the book (open to US residents only).



Its been a while since we have done one of these Kelly!

I thought I would start this discussion by talking about the story and hopefully along the way we will be able to touch on how the book is structured and how that helps or hinders the plot.

The book opens in 16th century Spain. Dona Antonio Nissim is friend to royalty, well respected and wealthy but none of that will protect her when she upsets royalty by refusing a match for her beautiful young daughter. And there is especially no protection when it is found that you are actually Jewish, something which comes as something of a surprise to her daughter Reyna and her nephew that she has been raising to become the head of her family, Jose. Forced to flee, the family is accepted into Turkey under the auspices of the sultan Suleiman and the family settles into a new life which is complicated by the fact that Reyna and Jose fall in love.

The action then moves forward a few years as their daughter Tamar is given the great privilege of being educated within the walls of the sultan’s harem, where she meets and falls in love with the heir, Murat. But theirs is a love that crosses culture and faiths and it isn’t long before the young lovers are torn apart but not before he gives her a ruby ring that ends up being passed from generation to generation. Murat goes on to rule the realm, but he and his descendants are forever to be cursed, in effect the debt of Tamar that the title of the book refers to.

I have to admit, I think I was confused about the curse when it was first mentioned in Murat’s part of the book. I think it was only when the book shifted to the Present Day that I fully understood. I guess that’s because I thought if anyone should be cursed, it should be her father because it is him that sends her away.

What did you think of the curse?

I was a bit confused by the curse at first too, almost as though the injured party was cursed rather than the injurer (is that even a word?). It did work itself out by the end of the book though!

But, after Murat’s time has come to an end, the book flashes to the present day. The Sultan’s reign has come to an end and now Selim Osman, the grandson of the last Sultan, is a successful business man. He is still living in the shadow of his ancestors. His father and brother are deceased and his mother left to go live with her aunt. He is essentially an orphan who finds himself diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. When he goes to New York to seek treatment, the stories of his ancestors and Tamar start to intertwine. Then, the time changes again, and we are in WWII-torn Paris, France.

In Paris we meet Davide. His parents were the victims of the Holocaust and he was raised by a kindly baker and his wife. Unfortunately, he can not live that idyllic life forever and his ancestors catch-up with him. He quickly changes his entire life to embrace his heritage and decides to leave Paris behind to visit the land of his ancestors. Then it is back to the future again for the stories to come together. I will leave it there for readers to get a taste of how things are going to come together.

What did you think of the characters? Did you have a favourite?

As we will discuss below, I find that the characters didn’t have a time in the book to really stand out. I thought that Reyna and Jose’s relationship was sweet, but it was so rushed there was no build up or drama. And, I really liked Reyna’s mother, but again, I didn’t really get a chance to get to know who she was. She was a strong and intriguing character that I would love to see an entire book about! Again, Murat and Tamar, sweet relationship, but for having lasting consequences through a curse it was again rushed. I didn’t get the tension because there was no time to get to feel it. Basically, though, the characters are all interesting. I just wish we had got to know them a bit better.

I am probably the same as you. I didn’t feel connected enough to any one story to say I had a favourite character.

Head over to Kelly's blog for the second part of the discussion where we talk more about the structure of the book and out overall reactions to the book.

About the tour

Link to Tour Page:
Tour Hashtag: #DebtofTamarVirtualTour
Nicole Dweck's website
Nicole Dweck on Twitter
Nicole Dweck on Facebook

About the book

Publication Date: February 4, 2013
Devon House Press
Paperback; 332p
ISBN-10: 061558361X

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-threatening 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 sea-side 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.


  1. This was fun! Other than my tablet... (Which I made sure to turn off instead of waiting for it to go to sleep and my battery is still kicking. Yay!)

  2. It was fun. We should do at least one more this year! lol

  3. I enjoyed your discussion style review. I thought Nicole's writing was beautiful but I had to reread sections to get the story straight. My review goes up this arvo :)