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In the tradition of gloriously absorbing, lush and moving women's fiction by authors such as Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley and Joanne Harris comes PRECIOUS THINGS.
Normandy, France, 1891: a young woman painstakingly sews an intricate beaded collar to her wedding dress, the night before her marriage to someone she barely knows. Yet Aimee longs for so much more ...
Shanghai, 1926: dancing sensation and wild child Zephyr spies what looks like a beaded headpiece lying carelessly discarded on a ballroom floor. She takes it with her to Malaya where she sets her sights on a prize so out of reach that, in striving for it, she will jeopardise everything she holds dear ...
PRECIOUS THINGS tells the story of a collar - a wonderful, glittering beaded piece - and its journey through the decades. It's also the story of Maggie, an auctioneer living in modern-day London, who comes across the crumpled, neglected collar in a box of old junk, and sets out on an unexpected mission to discover more about its secret and elusive past.
Maggie has a journey of her own too. Juggling a demanding job, a clingy young child and a rebellious stepdaughter, and with her once-solid marriage foundering under the pressure of a busy life, Maggie has to find out the hard way that you can't always get what you want... but sometimes, you're lucky enough to get precisely what you need.
This is a wonderful, absorbing and moving novel about desire, marriage and family, telling the story about how we so often reach out for the sparkly, shiny things (and people) we desire, only to realise - in the nick of time - that the most precious things are the ones we've had with us all along.
"Who would have worn it? she mused aloud. 'And what would it have seen?"
Precious Things is an involved an intricate story, revolving around a beaded piece of collar work. Although the story keeps returning to the story of Maggie in London, chapters charter the journey of the the collar from creation to destruction:
1891 - Aimee - France
1926 - Lexi a trapeze artist recreates the collar into a headpiece/coronet - Shanghai
1926 - Zephyr finds it in Malaya
1931 - Vera (twin sister to Zephyr) steals the coronet - London
1953 - Vera's stepson, Christian Hunt uses it - Rome
1957 - Isabella - Rome
1973 - sold to a gypsy - London
1974 - given to a model who wears it on photo shoots - Istanbul, New York
2015 - given up as part of a auction lot where it comes into Maggie's hands.
My! My! That is quite a list. Lots of places, characters, plots, dramas. Doust has some good ideas and intentions but, in my opinion, struggled to execute it in trying to cover everything listed. Without this list at the end of the novel, it is difficult to trace the links from person to person. Passages/chapters are left up in the air, links are often tenuous at best and far fetched at worst. I just think Doust bit off a little too much with the novel and, whilst it is good, the spotlight of the coronet is often lost amongst the plot of so many storylines.
The majority of the tale focuses on Maggie, her family and work life. Once the coronet comes into her possession, she embarks on a quest to find out the mystery surrounding it's history after being approached by Francesca who claims to have possessed the coronet sometime in her past. Now, that in itself was an interesting story to write.
Doust has tried to create a tale that is engaging on a number of levels. With more time being dedicated to Maggie – juggling motherhood, marriage and career - but nothing essentially to do with the coronet unless you subscribe to the theory of the coronet impacting upon the owner. There are some interesting tales which I would have loved to have seen fleshed out more, for example Lexi's story. At times, these lesser characters tale is too fleeting and I would love to learn more about their story.
I picked this book up as the premise is so interesting and appealing - to trace the story behind particular old antiques/pieces - what have they witnessed? And although Doust has done a good job, I think by narrowing the field somewhat, it could have created more impact.
"Wearing something with history gives us a connection to the life of the people who owned the piece before - it's a deep, almost tangible connections to the mystery of the object."