I love Natural History Museums. I've long been a fan of The Field in Chicago and, of course, The Smithsonian, and one of my favorite portions of any natural history museum is geology and gemstone collections. I've often joked I'm part magpie with my love of shiny objects, but it's hard not to be awed when surrounded by precious stones that sparkle, shine, and dazzle (and are worth more than several years of my salary). I recently came across a book by an author with an extensive background in buying and selling gems, and with careful research and masterful storytelling, he drew inspiration from an adventurous historical figure to construct an amazing book.
The French Blue: An Illustrated Novel of the Seventeenth Century.
Wise did a magnificent job in choosing the subject for his book, as Tavernier proves to be a fascinating protagonist. From the pearl divers of Persia, to the diamond mines in India, and the splendors of the court at Versailles, the story is ripe with action and information and peppered with romance and politics. The tale moves at a perfect pace and Wise's skill at research is equal to his mastery of prose. The fictional and factual characters are seamlessly blended together - and sometimes nearly indistinguishable. The inclusion of figures and illustrations also add wonderful seasoning to an expertly constructed work.
The French Blue was a highly enjoyable novel. Much like the gems described throughout the plot, this is a book that is eye-catching, intriguing, and overall a stunning treasure.
I can't say enough how much I enjoy books that teach me something new while still telling an engaging and entertaining story, and The French Blue did just that. And perhaps the highest recommendation I can give is that this book made me want to learn more about Tavernier, the era in which he lived, and the history of various precious stones.
AND - I've been given the opportunity to host a giveaway for The French Blue (the book, not the diamond). If you'd like to read this great historical fiction work, leave a comment below telling me something about your favorite gemstone or famous artifact. Contest is available to US mailing addresses only and closes on July 20, 2010 at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time. Winners will be contacted by email so be sure to leave an email address (spam protected format preferred - ex: herbookself AT gmail DOT com). The winner will have three days to respond via email with a mailing address, if no reply, a new winner will be drawn. Also, as a reader loyalty bonus, if you've commented on this blog BEFORE this post you will be given one extra entry. Good Luck!