As the nights have drawn in, the rain’s got more frequent, and the temperature has dropped, the Goblin and I have spent a lot of time in a sofa nest, reading and drinking mulled wine. It’s great. I am truly living my best adult life.
After finishing our History degrees, we’d been firmly stuck on non-fiction books for the last few years, but clearly 2018 required some escapism, and recently we’ve been all about the fiction!
Because I can never quite switch off work mode, I started thinking about the three best novels I’ve read featuring jewellery or gemstones as a key plot point… Here are my recommendations for your own sofa nest reading material:
1. The Ruby in the Smoke – Philip Pullman
Although this book is technically aimed at a young adult audience, it’s one of the few books from my childhood that has lived up to my memory on rereading, which is saying something, because ya girl had some questionable literary taste! (One word: Twilight…)
Set in Victorian-era London, The Ruby in the Smoke tells the story of Sally Lockhart, a young women who gets drawn into the dangerous mystery of a stolen ruby following her father’s death. It’s tightly-plotted, well-written, and features a ton of opium – what’s not to like?
2. Mademoiselle de Scudéri – E.T.A. Hoffman
My final choice is technically a novella, but that just means it’s a quick read! As well as featuring a German Miss-Marple-style detective, the elderly poet known as Mme de Scudéri, this book also has a jeweller at its centre. René Cardillac is a renowned goldsmith whose pieces are so highly prized they’re being stolen, and who is also famous for liking his own creations so much he often refuses to part with them – I think all jewellers have been there after finishing something we’re particularly proud of!
The story moves at quite a pace, and also sets the scene beautifully in 17th century Paris. I know a lot of people have to read this one for school, which could ruin it a bit for some, but since I’ve only read the English translation for fun, I’m recommending it!
3. The Roses of Picardie – Simon Raven
The Roses of Picardie is the only book on this list that actually features a piece of jewellery as opposed to a gemstone, because I’ve found from experience that most of the novels featuring jewellery as a main plot point are romance-based (no shade; just very much not my thing). Raven’s horror-mystery novel, on the other hand, is a deliciously dark tale featuring his staple horrible characters, cursed rubies, and a journey across Europe. Fun fact: a holiday I took around France in the summer of 2010 was directly inspired by this book, so it works as a travel guide, too!
Simon Raven was a famously nasty person, who once replied to his wife’s telegraphed request for money to stop her and their child starving with the curt ‘No money; suggest eat baby.’ His unpleasantness and the unflinching awfulness of his characters are, to be honest, part of his appeal. However, the downside to The Roses of Picardie is that this goes further than in some of his other works (e.g. Alms For Oblivion), and there’s a vein of anti-Semitism and some liberal use of the ‘n’ word throughout. Obviously, it’s up to the individual whether that element outweighs enjoyment of the story or not for them personally. It’s definitely one of my problematic faves!
Even more jewellery-related books…
I also have quite a long jewellery-related TBR, which is mostly non-fiction and goes something like this…
- The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins (I know, I know, I’ve just never got round to it…)
- Jewels: A Secret History – Victoria Finlay
- Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box – Madeleine Albright
- Victorian Jewelry, Identity, and the Novel: Prisms of Culture – Jean Arnold
- The Emperor’s Pearl – Robert van Gulik
- Jewel: A Celebration of Earth’s Treasures – DK/Judith Miller
If you have any recommendations for novels featuring jewellery or jewels, please let me know in the comments! New ones are surprisingly difficult to find on Goodreads for some reason…