I purchased the book for review as a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team.
This book covers multiple generations of the titled Scawton family of England. The center of the story is the current Lady Scawton, Pamela, who discovers the body of a stranger in the woods near the family home of Ashly House.
Pamela represents perhaps the last generation of the English upper class raised to be waited on and respected for their title alone, but she is, in fact, rather down to earth. She endured years of emotional and psychological trauma at the hands of her husband, CJ, and her only son, Charles, now Lord Scawton, is as selfish and overbearing as her husband.
In the pocket of the stranger is a letter addressed to Lord Scawton and an odd stone, one which changes color from green to pink, depending on the light. Pamela has no idea why the stranger, who had come to England from New Zealand, wanted to see her husband, what the abbreviated letter means, nor the reason for the stone. Eventually, she, against the strong wishes of her son, she travels to New Zealand to get answers. The stone, an alexandrite, mined in Tsarist Russia, gives its name to the book.
The book has numerous flashbacks to scenes involving the family and their servants during the two decades after WWar I, and from Ashly House to New Zealand farmland. Pamela’s trip reveals how the flashbacks to events after WW I are woven into the present.
I enjoyed the book, but for me it was a long read, with a great deal of exposition and some confusion with the many characters in the various time lines and places and multiple points of view. A character list at the beginning of the book would have been helpful. The site transitions within chapters also created some difficulties for me as I struggled to identify and remember the characters.
That being said, the author does a wonderful job creating the main characters. I felt pity for Pamela having such a difficult married life, knowing she was trapped there, and having a son who treated her disrespectfully. She is such a good character that I wanted to shake her and tell her to stand up for herself. It was gratifying that eventually she did. Her son Charles; the butler Godfrey; Ginny, the daughter of Pamela’s friend Di Williams; and Theodore Cook, the brother of the dead man and a shambling old wreck in and out of his memories, made strong impressions. I also liked the scenes set in New Zealand, where the author resides, especially the sheep shearing and Karekare Beach.
Another strong element for me was the description of the different roles of women set against the British class system, class conflicts and changing societal values.
This book had much to recommend it, but the numerous characters and their relationships are difficult to sort out through the various stories winding within the book.
About the author
Born in England, Dione Jones has been a New Zealand resident for years. Married to Chris and with two adult children, she lives on a small farm in South Auckland. She has had varied pursuits: at one stage she flew and helped sell aeroplanes and at another ran a laboratory in an abattoir. Her interest now encompasses her family and grandchildren, dogs, horses and polo, the business world, the environment we live in, historical changes in society – and of course good books. Writing is a long held passion and she is now a Master of Creative Writing.
You can find Dione Jones
On Twitter @DioneJonesAuthor
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DioneJonesAuthor/
The Alexandrite can be purchased on Amazon: