Monday, March 03, 2014

Buddy Book Review: The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck

The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck

Completed: March 2, 2014
Length: 330 Pages

Synopsis from Goodreads:
"Scheherazade, the ancient Persian Queen, could tell a good story, But so can Nicole Dweck..." -Book Morsels
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.
This is a buddy review with Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. She has the first part, so you will have to read it over there for it to make sense. She is in black and I am in the red colour.


The story jumps around a fair bit from 16th century Spain to modern day Turkey and America, and to Israel and France in the mid 20th century. How did you find these changes in time and characters? Did it flow smoothly for you?

As to the actual time changes themselves, I enjoyed the glimpses of different aspects of history, but just like the characters I wish we had a chance to experience things longer. I think that might be one of the shorter glimpses of the Holocaust, for example, I have ever experienced. And, I read this book because of the ‘different’ aspects of history and still didn’t feel like I learned enough. I suppose as a ‘learning’ experience I should read a non-fiction book and not look for it in fiction.

Had you read much about the expulsion of the Jews from Spain before? I had only read about about it a few months ago in another book so it was interesting to contrast how two authors handled the aspects of the story which were similar.

I have not, actually. I think that is why I was curious about this book. I have read a lot about the Jewish experience, but it was typically surrounding the Holocaust and those aspects of history. I will have to seek out some more books and read more about these times in history.

I thought that the changes in time and setting were handled well but I wanted more from each of the stories. We were just starting to learn about one character and then it would change to another story. I guess wanting more is better than being bored with a particular story and wishing that it would change to someone else though! I did find the story of Davide very interesting. That one thread alone would have made a really good subject for a book. A Jewish baby raised by a Catholic family, the drama when the truth came out, the divergent path of the two brothers. I wanted more!

That’s true. I wasn’t bored at all. I actually found that the book was a relatively fast read!

It was definitely a fast read, and one that it is easy to get invested in. It is actually one of those books that I probably wouldn’t have read if not for the enthusiastic reports from other bloggers. This meant that when we got the offer for the blog tour I was primed to accept it and to read the book. Did the book meet your expectations, were you surprised it was a debut novel and would you recommend it to others?

I have to admit I was just looking for something ‘different’. I wasn’t even aware that it was getting a lot of buzz. I should pay more attention, I guess! I agree with the buzz, though. My only complaint was that I wanted more. And, yes, for a debut, it was very well done. To be honest I didn’t know it was a debut and I think I probably only read it because of the tour. Now, the tour might have changed that when I saw the book around more!

What about you? What did you think of the ending?

I liked the ending. I liked how everything came together. I think that even though it was quick snippets, you find yourself waiting for the ending. I am not sure the book ended as I expected, but that was not a bad thing! I think the ending made me love the book where I was only sort of a fan before that.

I thought it was a good place to end the story. There is a glimpse of hope for the future but it wasn’t a sugar coated fairytale type ending. There was a good mix of history, a touch of romance of the doomed variety, and, for a debut novel, I thought it was a good read. I will definitely look out for Nicole Dweck’s next book.

Me too! Thanks for doing this buddy review with me!

This book was part of a tour hosted by the Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour.


  1. Sounds interesting, but I think just getting the little touches of history would be frustrating. On the other hand, maybe it would spur research. I've read a couple of books that focused on the expulsion of Jews from Spain and about how many of them converted to Catholicism, but continued to practice their religion in secret.

  2. This one definitely sounds like it is something I need to read immediately. Spanish Jews are even more fascinating to me than Jews from the other European countries if only because the Inquisition dealt with them just as ruthlessly as did the Nazis but with the complete approval of Church and Crown. I would definitely want more history though. It is too important a subject matter to treat flippantly.

  3. Enjoyed your buddy review with Marg, I agree with much of what you said, my review goes up today if you're interested. Nicole Dweck's writing is beautiful but the characters felt elusive and I had to really stay 'present' to avoid confusion lol


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