Author: Tricia Stringer
Jewel In The North is the highly anticipated finale in the Flinders Ranges series, an historical saga spanning three generations and bringing the story to a satisfying close.
Yes, this book is the conclusion of a three book saga and I have enjoyed following the Baker clan through the decades and I think that the experience was much more satisfying reading the story in sequence. BUT, I also believe that the story could be enjoyed if you only read this book. It is perfectly capable of standing on its own as well. You could probably even read the three books out of sequence to catch up but that would certainly drive me a little nuts, because I know my reading habits.
I had so many things to say about this book when I finished it, then life got in the way and now it’s three days later and I remember none of it.
We pick up with the Baker clan in 1895, after an 1894 Prologue. Joseph is now married to the native Millie and causing a stir in Hawker, certainly stirring the ire of Henry Wiltshire when they arrive for the opening of his creamery.
Heart of the Country was predominantly the story of Thomas Baker, patriarch of the Baker Clan and the conman who became his nemesis, Septimus Wiltshire. Dust on the Horizon continues the story of the two families with Joseph Baker and Henry Wiltshire, who were unaware of the connection between their fathers in the beginning of the story. Jewel In The North is the story of the third generation of the families, William Baker and Charles Wiltshire, whom we met as children and have now grown into young men.
Jewel In The North begins with a South African man sniffing around after diamonds and there happens to be a man in the hotel who has heard about one and thinks no further than how many drinks he could buy with what they will pay for directions to the area he thinks there may once have been a diamond found. This storyline doesn’t go far and we all hope that is the end of it, but being the focus of the prologue it’s a pretty safe bet it will crop back up somewhere along the way.
The Bakers and the Wiltshires seem to be inextricably linked, and the ill feelings travel through the generations. I think a lot of the animosity between William and Charles is a product of the friction between Joseph and Henry, but they had issues before they ever discovered the link between their fathers. The tension between these families kept growing and becoming more intense through the generations certainly had me thinking about how much of it was a conscious thought and how much the product of the family environment.
The Bakers are a pretty calm and friendly family, they are tolerant and inclusive and they tend to get along with everyone – unless they come in contact with a Wiltshire. Much of the issue between Joseph and Henry comes down to their very different views of the natives, but Henry Wiltshire is not the only one with that opinion yet the Bakers can be civil and polite with others who share the same views as Henry Wilthshire. The level of animosity between Joseph and Henry leaves little chance for anything but trouble between their sons but it got even worse, begging the question of what the next generation would bring.
Sitting back and thinking about the entire saga it is interesting to note the contrasts between the two families across the generations and I’m not sure if I’m overthinking things and adding importance where it was not intended but the growth of generations throughout the saga was interesting to watch through the families. It seemed that if one family was blessed with children the other struggled.
William was torn growing up between the relationships of his family with the natives and the views of the town of his family and their relationship with the natives. We saw him struggle to decide for himself where he stood on the issues and in Jewel In The North his relationship with the natives living in the area behind the family properties takes on a new aspect.
The Wiltshires are a family that I have had very little time for and they certainly didn’t find any redemption with me in this book, in fact they even sunk further in my esteem if that was possible. But I did have to sit back and thank the karma train because they met their match in the sneaky manipulative nasty stakes and got a little of what they deserve.
The town of Hawker and it’s surrounds have had some really good years but Thomas is starting to notice the signs and fears that another drought is coming. The Bakers have diversified and though they still run sheep on Wildu Creek William now stocks cattle at Smith’s Ridge. They start looking at stock levels to plan for the impending drought to ensure they can weather the tough times coming.
Jewel In The North brings us through another drought, the Boer War and to the beginnings of the First World War. There is division, diamonds and distrust as the township of Hawker grows and new laws come into play with regard to the native people.
It was heartbreaking to read of the fear that Millie faced for her children with the news of mixed race children being taken from their families and their heritage, the beginnings of the stolen generation.
An enthralling tale of love, family and the heritage passed down through generations. Jewel In The North did a wonderful job of bringing the families full circle and offered a beautiful close to the saga. There is still a lot to explore and a part of me would be more than happy to discover that Stringer is going to follow the Bakers through a few more generations and stick with their story until they catch up with us on the timeline, but this chapter closed with a satisfying tying of the storylines.
Jewel In The North is book #24 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.