The Love of Stones

Published: 07-11-2013
Format: EPUB eBook
Edition: 1st
Extent: 288
ISBN: 9781408844113
Imprint: Bloomsbury Paperbacks
RRP: £7.99

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‘Sinuous plotting and superb conjurations of place...as close to the apotheosis of a yarn as to a literary masterpiece…a master of the historical thriller’

Adam Mars Jones, The Observer

‘Remarkable...a compassionate and intelligent novel that is so full of action and interest and that brings alive such an array of people and places, of times and cultures, that it is difficult to believe they sprang from the pen of one writer.’

Rachel Cusk, Sunday Express


SYNOPSIS

‘I am following the traces of a great jewel. All its owners are dead, and the jewel is lost...’

Precious stones are thousands of years old. They pass through the hands of owners and smugglers, merchants and thieves. Often the hands leave no trace, but they are there all the same: they leave impressions, invisible, like atoms of hydrogen drawn to the surface of a diamond.

The Love of Stones charts three such lives linked by one jewel. Katharine Sterne searches the goldsmiths’ quarters and hidden archives of London, Tokyo and Istanbul, following the trail of a long-lost jewel; a brooch of rubies, diamonds and pearls once worn by Queen Elizabeth I. Two hundred years earlier, a pair of Iraqi Jewish brothers travel to London, their fortunes made by an unearthed jar of mysterious and priceless stones.

An epic story spanning six continents and six centuries, The Love of Stones follows three very different people, each in their own way consumed by the same desire. At the heart of their lives is the Three Brethren, the legendary jewel that binds them together in a narrative as clear and irresistible as the facets of a diamond.

EXTRACT

I am following the traces of a broken jewel. It has been the turning point of many lives. Mine is only one.

I think of the diamond. I try to imagine it.

There is no other stone like diamond. It has particular qualities of purity, self-possession, and weakness. On the Moh scale of hardness the diamond is ten, the maximum from which all the rest is measured; but this is deceptive. For one thing, diamond is the only gem which will combust, burning with a clear, quick flame. It leaves no ash. It is as if the crystal were somehow organic, like coral or amber, flesh or bone. And diamond is brittle as bone. Drop a brilliant and it will shatter like glass along any internal flaw. There is hardness but no flexibility, and brittleness is an unforgiving quality.

It is an elemental jewel - pure cubic carbon. Diamonds are like a mathematical solution to what a gem should be. No other jewel has that simplicity. But again, the purity is deceptive. It is only terrestrial diamonds which always have a cubic structure. Sometimes diamonds are found in meteors, and their form is hexagonal. There are even diamonds which aren’t made of carbon at all, but boron, and these stones are blue as ice shadows. And there is the diamond’s skin.

Hold a diamond and you touch hydrogen. The nyf of the stone, its rind, is overlaid with a surface of elemental explosiveness. The arrangement of atoms in the crystal is acquisitive, reaching outwards like so many hands. The hands catch what they can, taking hydrogen from the oil of your fingers or throat, or from the air. In this way the diamond makes itself a second skin.

This is the first irony of diamonds. However much people try to be near them - and people waste their lives in this way - diamonds are never touched. People kill for them, pay fortunes, lose years. In return, the stones give them coolness, light, and a surface of violence one atom thick.

This is the second irony of diamonds: the crystal is a lie. The truth is in the hydrogen. Diamonds draw violence to them like magnets. They inspire a deadliness in humanity, a morality which values stones above life. They wear death invisibly, weightlessly, as if the lives of their owners were as transient and insubstantial as air.’