Book Club: Jewel In The North

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Author: Tricia Stringer
ISBN: 9781489220387
RRP: $29.99

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.

Tricia can be found at Tricia and Facebook.

Jewel In The North is published by Harlequin and available now through Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Jewel In The North so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

20 thoughts on “Book Club: Jewel In The North

  1. Although Jewel in the North is the third book in Tricia Stringer’s Flinders Rangers series, it reads well as a stand alone story, and I did not feel as though I had missed anything in not having read the previous books. Past episodes of the Baker family’s history at Wildu Creek are neatly covered within the current book, and whilst some characters apparently overlap the two other books, their backgrounds and relationships are explained within the context of this story. The main focus of Jewel in the North, is on William Baker, a third generation Baker, and his interactions with the other pioneering families in the area – the less than honourable Prossers and their beautiful daughter Georgina and the pompous and shallow Wiltshires who try to be the upper crust – as they all battle to establish themselves in the harsh and often unforgiving South Australian landscape.

    Both in the fledgling town of Hawker and for those making a living in the surrounding farmlands, it is a constant struggle – from store owners to pastoralists, times are hard – dust storms, droughts and floods affect them all, and they each suffer disappointments and crippling loss. But interestingly it is the racial and social prejudices as well as the petty jealousies, tensions and rivalries between and within the different families in the Hawker community that provide the most interesting insight into what it must have been like to be a pioneering family back in the 1890s.

    This is a long book – 564 pages, a real family saga, that provides an entertaining and colourful glimpse into the past.

  2. I am sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy “Jewel in the North” as much as I’d expected to, given that I have enjoyed Stringer’s work in the past.

    For me there were two main reasons I didn’t enjoy the book very much. The first was the plotting. Although Stringer is an excellent writer, and her action flows well, I felt that there was little in here I hadn’t read before. That isn’t always a problem, of course, but in this case the novel lacked a spark to lift it above routine. This just felt like a very ordinary historical novel which covered a series of events which could have been lifted from any one of a number of other novels.

    The more serious problem was the limited number of characters I felt any engagement with. A number of the characters were extremely unpleasant – deliberately so. And while they were well drawn and convincing, I didn’t want to spend much time with them. A significant number of other characters were drawn quite sketchily. I’m not sure if that was because this was the third in a trilogy, and they’d been more strongly drawn in the earlier novels (which I haven’t read) or whether it was due to the sheer number of characters Stringer was handling. Either way, I felt I was left with only two or three characters I was particularly interested in.

    However, while I didn’t enjoy the novel very much, I suspect that others will. Stringer is an experienced writer, and as noted, her prose flows well and is easy to read. She manages a number of jumps in time very smoothly, quickly catching readers up to the characters. The action is credible and easy to follow. The setting is vivid and she captures the atmosphere of the period well.

    Although I had some issues with the characters, others may find that less pronounced. Readers of the earlier novels may be more familiar with some characters, and so may find a greater number of prepossessing characters to engage with. Certainly, Stringer is capable of writing vivid and emotionally involving characters, and some readers might not share my strong aversion to some characters.

    Although I didn’t feel that this was Stringer’s best work, it is a well written novel likely to be enjoyed by an audience more interested in character and setting than in an original plot.

    1. okay, having not read the other books that came in thixs series, I set to , to read this one, and boy, was it some reading. I could follow the twists and turns, but what can I write that has not been written before me, I found it so true, in respect to a lot of the droughts, and then rains, and the cattle, and the humpies, and the indegenous people that came into the story as well.. I enjoyed reading as over the course of time I too have met up with people of other races, and must regard their life and my life as being different. I admire what they were like way back then, as they had no mentors, but good ones, and the drink and drug problem we have now in our north, and in other lands, is huge. I was sorry to find how the story actually started to wind down, but I leave you to read all about it, enough to say that I have literally been glued to it for four days. will try to see if I can get the two books before it… thanks for the wonderful chance to read this one.

  3. Wow! Another fantastic read from Stringer. I’ve read 3 of her books in the past and could not put them down, this book was the same. I haven’t read the first 2 in the series and was a little lost for the first few chapters, eventually I caught on. I do feel it can be read as a stand alone novel but I’m eager to read the first 2.
    The 3 families we follow, The Bakers, Prossers and Wiltshires are so interesting and different and interwoven. I felt myself so involved with each family and situations they faced. I felt happy, sad, furious and relieved when things worked out.
    I loved the feeling of the landscape and could picture it all.
    The ending was a solid ending and I liked it.
    I can’t wait to hit the bookshop and get her first 2 in this series.
    Easily 5/5 stars. I’m blown away once again from Tricia Stringer’s writing. Thank you Beauty & Lace for this fab review x

  4. I didnt realise it was a part of the Flinders Rangers series as thought reading it, it was a stand alone book.
    It took me little reading to really get into this book and when I did it was enjoyable to the end.
    Charles was some nasty piece of work with no thought for others except himself and the only thing Edith did good was tell William what she`d overheard.
    Was so good to see Laura grow up to not be like her brother or father for that matter but cut short by the unexpected (trying to not give too much away)
    William, his father and grandfather were all just such true wonderful men and life on the land seemed to dish them hard times over and over again but they were strong and had a big family to help them all get through what life threw at them and the terrible gossip spread by others.
    So loved the ending as I had nearly forgotten about the lockets journey until Thomas seen it.
    Georgina went through a lot but had an ending that was contented and happy I thought, as long as she had William and her now big extended family and of course how her mum came around towards the end.
    Was a great read and I have now read 2 of Tricia Stringers books and loved them both.
    Thankyou for this opportunity as was a very welcome read in this cold wintery weather.

  5. Just finished this very long book what an epic saga
    Really wish I had known about the earlier books might have helped get into the storyline better as it did take awhile to get the gist of things that said I found this book to be enthralling as the 2 families battle it out whilst dealing with drought & all other huge problems that are faced
    So many feelings while reading sadness anger then contentment at the conclusion could be a stand alone book if I didn’t know of the others but saying that I enjoyed reading this book so thanks Beauty & Lace for the chance

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it was not until reading other’s comments that I realised that it was the third book in a series, an indication that it stands very well on its own.

    Set in the late 1800’s in the Flinders Ranges, post gold rush days this tale of three families, the Bakers, the Prossers and the Wiltshire’s beautifully captures the Victorian values that were still very prevalent in Australia despite there impracticality in the harsh Australian climate.

    Henry Wiltshire has raised his son Charles with his same bigoted attitudes towards “the natives”, the original aboriginal inhabitants of the land, and this contempt is shown not only towards Joseph Baker and his new wife Millie who has aboriginal blood, but also to the now adult children of Joseph and his first wife, William and Robert.

    The Bakers run sheep on their large leased farm holding, and are friends with the local aborigines who camp on their land. William wants to diversify into cattle, so needs to learn about the differences between farming sheep and cattle.

    Ellis Prosser has the farm next to the Baker’s and despite being a man of most unpleasant and violent nature agrees to share his knowledge about cattle with William, that is until Ellis realises that William is also interested in his beautiful daughter Georgina.

    Charles Wiltshire, although still a teenager, considers that he would be a much better match for Georgina than the “native loving” William Baker and as he works towards reaching his maturity and wooing Georgina we see what an underhanded, vindictive and nasty person he is.

    As we follow each of the families up and downs and interactions we see how Stringer artfully combines reality with fantasy to produce a book that is hard to put down.

    And behind the characters looms the threat of the Protector of Aborigines, a locket engraved with an H, and Joseph Baker’s good luck diamond, found many years ago on the property.

    A most entertaining and well written book. Highly recommended. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review.

  7. Beginning with the Prologue in the year of July 1894 and then starting the first chapter in May 1895, I did get a little confused at first and it took me a while to understand the characters and who was related to whom. I was not aware that this book was a series as I had not read the other two beforehand but in saying that, I wasn’t disappointed with reading this fantastic novel.

    This is a mammoth book of 564 pages with an equally mammoth historical storyline that will have you captivated as I found it to be brilliantly written. Once I understood the characters, I couldn’t stop reading this book. I could almost visualise the Australian Flinders Rangers and all the characters.

    It always fascinates me how I tend to dislike some characters and then fall in love with others. There were many characters in this one that you just wished karma would follow them. I noted a bit of a cinderella storyline amongst the pages also.

    This book reminds you of the hardships that were sought back in the late 18th century. Tricia has certainly written a powerful, compelling, emotional and memorable read that will stay within me for quite a while. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it is definitely a page turner.

    I just wanted this storyline to continue so I could keep following the lovable characters that I had become to love.

    After finishing the novel, I asked myself, did I need to read the two books beforehand and my answer was, I was quite happy reading number 3 but down the track, I may possibly read the first 2.

    I always have tissues with me just in case when reading and again, tears welled in my eyes during this book but you will have to read the book to find out why.

    Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Harlequin for giving me the opportunity of reading such a fabulous storyline. I loved it.

  8. “Jewel In The North” is the third epic and final book in Tricia Stringer’s Flinders Range series and it is an absolute gem. The book brings together to the two main families from her first book, the Bakers and the Wiltshires and they are brought together for one big show-down. Along the way there are some fascinating scuffles including a love triangle, a conniving man who is trying to undermine his neighbour and farmers who are trying to make a living in the midst of a serious drought.

    Stringer does an excellent job of writing Australiana books and while these novels fit into the category of historic fiction they feel like true stories about living and breathing characters. These books are for fans of the late Bryce Courtenay because it touches on similar themes that the former explored in his work. Make sure you immerse yourself and get lost in Baker Street – although technically it is Baker’s Farm – because you won’t be disappointed.

  9. Another Tricia Stringer novel to read. How exciting was this going to be.

    Only after finishing the book did I realise that this was the third book in the Flinders Series.
    Sometimes when reading a book that is part of a series you find that there are parts of the story that just don’t make sense as they are following on in each book and that you really need the back story to understand what is happening. Gladly this was not the case with Jewel in the North. It is an entire story in itself that flows along and you don’t feel like something is missing.

    The story itself is set in and around the town of Hawker. The hardships of drought and being a farmer are well told with compassion and thought.
    William Baker is a man you will fall in love with and also feel his sadness, happiness and joy.
    Charles Wiltshire is a man who will stop and nothing to get what he wants and will hurt those he sees as blocking his way to happiness.

    I could really feel Tricia Stringer’s love of the land in this novel more so than any other novel of hers I have read. She seems to have a way of making you fall in love with the land that we walk on a little bit deeper.
    This is a historical novel which gives it another edge to it. Being the family history buff that I am I really enjoyed a little insight about life on the land as a farmer that my family may have had.

    This is not a quick read novel but rather a deep novel that makes you realise how hard life was around 1895 but it’s not heavy but one that you will enjoy reading.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Books for the novel to read and many thanks to Tricia Stringer and her way with words.

  10. I can happily say that Jewel In The North is one of the most enthralling and enjoyable books I have read in many years. Having grown up just south of the Flinders Ranges, I fondly remember many happy holidays in the Flinders and it was lovely to relive the memories of this beautiful area.

    Initially I was taken aback by the sheer length of this book, I wondered how I would ever get through it. The first couple of chapters introduced an almost overwhelming number of characters but the family trees became more evident as the story progressed. The story captivated my imagination very quickly and I was eager to hear of the trials and tribulations of each of the families.

    This historical drama tells the story of the Baker, Wiltshire and Prosser families and their interwoven lives within the small rural community of Hawker. The characters are all very believable and relatable, many whom felt very familiar. As the story progressed I was able to feel the emotional toll felt by the characters as they endured the hardship of rural life, drought and family dramas. This emotion made it all the more difficult to hear of their suffering and survival as they faced some very difficult times in their lives.

    In due course, I will endeavour to read the first two books in this series to learn more of the earlier lives of these families, however this book can easily be read as a complete story in its own right.

    I wish the author Tricia Stringer great success in her future writing, she is no doubt an author with a terrific talent for storytelling and I look forward to many more books to come.

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