Between the years 1630 1668, the French gem merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier made six voyages to Persia and India His true exploits by land and sea go far beyond the ink and paper exploits of fictional adventurers Tavernier met and did business with some of the world s most powerful princes and romanced some of the most beautiful women. This is a historical fiction novel about a gem merchant during the 17th century who made several journeys to the east and discovered the diamond that would become the hope diamond The stories are really interesting and based on several books published by Tavernier myself It is a unique glimpse at the life of a European merchant during the 1600s Its an enjoyable read and one that reads very quickly However I thought the writing could have been better and there were several typos including as one reviewer has already mentioned there was an entire sentence missing between pages 133 134. NO SPOILERS I finished the book last night This was for me a four star book It is an adventure story about Jean Baptiste Tavernier s life It is historical fiction I preferred the historical aspects of the story Descriptions of people and places and customs were done magnificently I was less drawn to the plot of the story I enjoyed reading the separate episodes I loved the chapter about Princess Jahamara and the Kama Sutra You smile Sex was delightfully depicted This book is filled with many, many adventures, and they are fun to read about I do believe that by the end of the book the reader understands who Tavernier was as a person I understood Madeleine with my head, but I never cared for her with my heart, as I did with Tavernier I liked her better in the beginning rather than at the end, but I will not say why That would be a spoiler The reason why I give it four rather than five stars is because it remains to me an adventure STORY For many others, that is enough to award it five stars I personally am drawn to fact over fiction and although all the facts that are known about Tavernier s life are skillfully interwoven into the story, it remains a story For me a five star book has to be utterly AMAZING This book was very, very good Maybe if all the fun, different episodes had held together , it would have worked better for me Instead, I enjoyed that episode and that episode and that one, but they were not linked together to build a whole that ended up AMAZING I am very glad I read this book I learned about history and locations and gens and the gentleman s code of behavior One thing I loved how the appearance of a person was so wonderfully depicted After reading a description, the characters stood before you, visible in your mind s eye Some of them you could even smell Through page 226 I have been questioned if this book should be shelved as history or non fiction In my mind it is good historical FICTION It is a rollicking adventure story based on a real person s life Further, note the discussion Tara and I are having I have now met Madeleine de Goisse, the love of his life She has spirit If I may quote one sentence I will be no man s chattel Are her actions believable The reader must judge for themself Is the story fun Absolutely Remember no spoiler Tara is currently reading this book too Our views diverge Check out the comments under her review too Tara is a wonderfull friend of mine, but that does not mean we must always have the same views on books Through page 172 I am really enjoying myself Gems, history, travels and captivating storytelling all rolled up in a marvelous bundle Visiting thee ancient cities is marvelous First of all they cannot today be seen as they were then and armchair travel is so much easier than real travel One quote about Istafan, Persia Istafan together with its suburbs is than twice the size of Paris, and the population is ten times greater than our capital.The city has one hundred sixty two mosques, forty eight colleges, and twelve cemeteries It is situated in the middle of a broad, fertile plain that spreads fifteen leagues in each direction The plain is planted with all manner of trees and crops, sufficient to feed the entire population of the city There are no villages, just tiny clusters of houses, used by those that work the land, and plain tree shaded channels that have been dug to provide irrigation.Between seven and eight o clock each morning it is the custom of the citizens of Istafan to repair to the coffee houses where they smoke tobacco and gossip with friends.The next chapter, entitled Madame Twelve Tomans, I imagine, will thrust me into the tale of Tavernier s love life NOW I think I have said enouogh so I can just read the book for awhile Through page 158 The last chapter has cenntered upon the Thirty Years War to put it succinctly a conflict between the Catholic and the Protestant faiths Fascinationg to read again about King Gustav Adolf of Sweden and Wallenstein, the Austrian Generalissimo, and the Holy Roman Emperor, about the Battle at L tzen where Gustav Adolf was killed and about the assassination of Wallenstein Tavernier s role in the assassination is plausible In Prague I have visited the Wallenstein Palace and read all the nasty things they say about the Swedes There are beautiful peacocks in the gardens Being Swedes ourselves, we chose to speak English as tourists Prague is a city that MUST be visited, before it is inundated by all the tourists Through page 58 The best way to explain the manner of the storytelling is perhaps via a quote We departed the Persian capital with ten camels, four to carry my goodsand four to carry myself, Danusch and my two servants, with two animals as spares The caravan consisted of than one hundred fifty merchants, our small retinue almost lost among the thousand men and beasts bound for the port of Bander Abbas on the Persian Gulf My own goal was the island of Bahrain, the center of pearl fishing in the Gulf.On caravan, each morning is much the same.The most devout of the Arab camel herders unrolled their rugs in the direction of Mecca and prayed Danush was not the most devout of men, but he could not resist the pointed glances of his co religionists Silently he would unroll his prayer rug and with a surly side ways glance, kneel, and join their devotions while I stood silently beating my arms and stamping my feet to drive the cold from my night stiff limbs.Once the prayers were over Danush prepared breakfast First he added small chips of camel dung to build up the fire that had been carefully banked the night before He filled a fire blackened pot and boiled tea Then he then dug up the pita, the thin flat bread that had been mixed, kneaded, flattened and placed in shallow holes scraped in the bare earth, covered over with dirt and hot ashes from the fire Raw onions, tangy hummus, the warm pita and bitter green tea were our usual fare.Most of the merchants were clad in Bedouin attire long robes and.Through such detailed description the reader can draw a picture in their minds of what is happening the smells, the feel the texture of the surroundings This is what I mean by wonderful storytelling There is alot of action and the dialogue fits perfectly each given situation Two minor complaints there are small typographical errors and I wish MORE maps were provided I would have loved to see the trajectory of all travels plotted onto maps This is not serious, I just had to grap my own atlas It is fun to see the voyages plotted out and think that this took place in the 1600s Through page 56 Before starting this book I had absolutely no interest in the gem trade I picked this book out b c I was interested in its emphasis on travel during the 1600s Now I find the gem trade enthralling Terms such as washing the eyes in the bargaining process, the different qualities of turquoise Piruzeh in Farsi angustari, arabi and barkhneh and both history and customs of the Persian sheks, shahs and tradesmen are depicted through delightful storytelling This is proving to be a delightful adventure story for adults Never boring The subjects touched upon are to me both new and intriguing Through page 20 Marvelous storytelling from the first page explains why Tavernier from a young age becam interested in travelling the seas The author adroitly chooses his words to anchor the setting in the 1600s, in a world of cartography, questions concerning Tera Australis Incognita, Portugese sailing prowess, the legendary cities of Goa and Madras, sites along the Malabar coast, hourglasses, fighting with cutlass, dirk and rapier The dialogue is perfect Tavernier made six voyages to India and Persia from 1630 to 1668 On his last voyage he returned with the French Blue, the diamond from which the Hope Diamond is carved He sold this diamond tp France s Sun King, Louis XIV for 147 kilos of pure gold In the next chapter Tavernier is off on his first voyage No dwadling here, the adventurey has begun Before reading Yoohoo, yoohoo pay attention I got it Yipee Richard thank you very much for sending this What is this super jet airmail Yesterday Richard said it was on the way and today I get it And it is a hardcover signed by Richard Lovely pictures and maps and drawings What can I say I am impressed I adore hardovers, but I rarely treat myself to them Lauren, thank you putting in a good word for me The French Blue is a fascinating debut historical fiction novel It is about Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the son of a cartographer, who finds his fortune as a gem trader The novel is drawn from Tavernier s own memoirs of his travels, mixed with knowledge of gemstones, genuine historical research, and some imaginative storytelling to tie together Tavernier s life and fill in gaps in the historical record It is quite lengthy, but grabbed me in instantaneously, thanks to marvelous prose and electrifying storytelling.The novel begins with Jean Baptiste Tavernier as a little boy He meets a Portuguese sailor who tells him a fantastic story about a sea voyage to Australia and a horrific counter with the aborigines Jean Baptiste develops the ambition to see the world Jean Baptiste becomes a gem trader, traveling to Persia, India, Burma, and other exotic locales He meets fantastic historical figures, from the cardinal Mazarin to Louis XIV as a young boy man to Shah Jehan of the Mogul Empire to the Shah of Persia The novel includes plenty of intrigue, with Jean Baptiste going to great lengths to find the sources of pearls, rubies, and diamonds, facing danger along the way from pirates, religious fanatics, authoritarian monarchs, and other fascinating characters The novel also features romance in the form of the daughter of the Shah of Persia and a French courtesan, who becomes Jean Baptiste s lifelong love interest as well as Jean Baptiste s liaisons with a married Countess as well as Shah Jehan s daughter Ultimately, the novel is the back story of the stone that eventually was cut into the Hope Diamond.Wise is a great writer He has a gift for transporting his readers to both faraway places and faraway times Sometimes, historical novels are not fully divorced from modernity, with excessively modern protagonists with modern ideas Wise s Jean Baptiste Tavernier is decidedly not modern Jean Baptiste s accounts of his encounters with the natives often smack of ethnocentrism However, this is a great strength, as a seventeenth century man even one as worldly as Tavernier would have viewed the world through a mindset of European superiority.In short, this novel is so much than a novel about the gem trade It is a novel about the growth of colonialism, about empires that no longer exist, about travel and ambition and fearlessness Jean Baptiste Tavernier was an amazing man each of his six voyages to the east took several years, requiring arduous treks through mountains, across the dessert, across the sea and through jungles As is clear from the novel, Europeans often did not survive in the tropical climates of India and Indonesia, yet Jean Baptiste pressed on, filled with ambition to find the most valuable stone known to Europe While gemology is clearly Wise s passion, gemology itself is secondary to the story of Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the adventurer The author sent me a review copy of this novel. Having given up this book previously due to my own lack of interest, I was convinced by numerous friends and some tantalizing references to finish it I should have left well enough alone, but now I can be completely fair in my review and rating My opinions below remain the same Every woman in this book EXCEPT Jean s mother and Anne of Austria comes across as a Bond girl NOT FOR ME Madeleine, having been a strong and likeable woman at first is a greedy and unlikeable I m thinking 5 letters, adjective, first letter B, also means female dog by the end of the novel and I thought Jean would indeed, be better off letting her wallow like a pig in a trough And Princess Jahanara oh my Is it a good adventure Yes Does it have pirates Only one chapter Did I like it No Sorry, guys I picked this up cause of all the hoopla Everybody loves this book Out of 14 reviews on , all but one are 5 stars The lone outcast gave it gasp a 4 I m not gonna lie It hasn t worked for me I must settle for being the only person in the world not in love with this book I have bailed at page 305 so even tho I spent two days reading this, I have not given it a rating What made me bail A Tho full of real history and real people, the stories were not about people I have ever heard of nor care about I want to stress this here It is not a BAD book, it is just not about people that interest this particular reader B The women characters when they ever bothered to make their brief appearances were all married women sleeping with the hero of the tale or grabbing his crotch under the dinner table And finally C Twas a bit choppy for my taste Allow me to define choppy By choppy I mean certain parts in Jean s life just suddenly come to an end and one brief line later, another part of his life begins and I was checking to see if I had missed a page or paragraph somehow Also, some details about his life were very left out He had a brother Daniel who went traveling with him but it is not until page 282 that yet another brother is mentioned, Gabriel I would have liked to know of his family After all, your immediate family, the people you grow up with and that you love, determines much about who you are as a person More information along these lines may have helped me get to know and understand Jean better Just suddenly mentioning your brother for the first time at a point in your journal when you are 45 years of age is just so sudden and off I don t know how else to explain it, but there it is I think this is a novel for fans of James Bond.
- 584 pages
- The French Blue
- Richard W. Wise
- 10 March 2019 Richard W. Wise