Publication Date: 4th February 2013
Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Synopsis: 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-theatening 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 seaside 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.
It was the cover of The Debt of Tamar that caught my attention. Isn't it beautiful? Thankfully it doesn't end with the cover, this debut novel is also beautifully written. It's a story of love and loss, redemption, culture and faith.
Spanning centuries; from 16th century Portugal and the Ottoman Empire, to Nazi occupied Paris in the 1940's and present day Turkey and US. I've read quite a bit about The Edict of Expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal and find this period in history both horrifying and fascinating.
Beginning with the execution by burning of unrepentant Jews, Doña Antonia Nissim her daughter Reyna and nephew Jose escape to Turkey with the help of Sultan Sulieman the Magnificent. When Reyna and Jose's daughter Tamar falls in love with the sultan's son, Murat, a decision by Jose sparks the debt, and so begins The Sultan's Curse. This part of the story I was most captivated by, I didn't want to leave.
Fast forward to present day and we follow Selim Osman, last living descendant of the Ottoman Sultans, then to Paris 1941 and the Herzikovas ... sounds confusing but as the story progresses common threads are slowly revealed and the tapestry is pieced together.
The Debt of Tamar has a haunting beauty, it's quite outside the realm of traditional, continuing the central love story of Tamar and Murat through other characters ... thwarted love, eternal love, beautifully entwined.
I understand why Nicole Dweck presented Debt of Tamar in such a way, but it didn't stop me wanting more. The characters felt elusive, fleeting, just a sense of them before they slip into the shadows. It's a story you need to be fully present for as confusion can easily override pleasure ... but maybe that was just me.
All up, a story I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and I look forward to more from Nicole Dweck.
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