The Lost Jewels
Author: Kirsty Manning
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2020
Kirsty Manning is almost a local girl. She lives with her husband and three children in the Macedon Ranges. However, Kirsty grew up in country New South Wales. Her travels and study have taken her to most of Europe, United States of America, and parts of Asia. Kirsty’s first novel, The Midsummer Garden, was published in 2017 and was followed by bestselling The Jade Lily.
The Lost Jewels, Kirsty’s third novel, is inspired by a true story, the finding of the Cheapside Hoard — “the greatest single collection of Elizabethan and Stuart jewellery in the world” — in 1912.
Romance and intrigue; fact blended with fiction; and travel to exotic locations — what more does one need in these locked-down times?
The principle character, Dr Kate Kirby, historian and jewellery specialist, is asked to write a cover story for a luxury magazine on the jewellery hoard discovered at Cheapside, London, in 1912. An exciting research project, just the antidote Kate needs at this low point in her life
Kate’s research uncovers a complex history of events surrounding the jewels and an unexpected connection between Essie, Kate’s beloved great-grandmother, and the jewels.
Aussie photographer Marcus Holt is assigned to take the photos for the story. Marcus comes with a reputation and not just for his individual and energetic style; and on this occasion direct from Heathrow he is replete with surfboard and late for their London Museum meeting.
Writing in third person, Kirsty has given the reader an easy-to-follow multi-layered story. It is woven around the jewels and three women — Aurelia, Essie and Kate — in three eras: the seventeenth century, Edwardian London and present day. The storytelling mainly switches between Kate and Essie; after all they are family and a lot of the underlying theme is about family.
However, it is through Aurelia that the seventeenth-century possible origins of the hoard are explained.
After the London meeting, Kate and Marcus jet off to Hyderabad in India looking for the historical influences that have shaped the history of the jewels.
Eating in quirky, out-of-the way cafés, touring the mines, then a short break in Sri Lanka before Kate heads back to Paris. It all seems so easy. I loved this little throwaway phrase, “Kate sat at her favourite table at Chez George”, as a way of giving Kate just that little extra sense of social polish.
The Lost Jewels was an enjoyable, well-paced and entertaining book. I can thoroughly recommend it.
Reviewed by: Frank Thompson, June 2020
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group