The Diamond is a brilliant, dazzling historical novel about a famous diamond—one of the biggest in the world—that passed from the hands of William Pitt’s grandfather to the French kings and Napoleon, linking many of the most famous personalities of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and serving as the centerpiece for a novel in every way as fascinating as Susan Sontag's The Volcano Lover or Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.
Rich with historical detail, characters, and nonstop drama, the story centers on the famous Regent diamond—once the largest and most beautiful diamond in the world—which was discovered in India in the late seventeenth century and bought by the governor of the East India Company, a cunning nabob, trader, and ex-pirate named Thomas Pitt. His son brought it to London, where a Jewish diamond-cutter of genius took two years to fashion it into one of the world's greatest gems.
A glittering cast of characters parades through The Diamond: a mesmerizing Napoleon and the devoted Las Cases, stuck on Saint Helena with their memories; Louis XIV and his brother, the dissolute Monsieur; Madame, the German princess who married Monsieur; the Scottish financier John Law and Saint-Simon, who sold Pitt's diamond to Madame's depraved son; the depressed Louis XV; and Madame de Pompadour. Here too are the families, the Pitts in England and the Bonapartes in France; the men of Saint Helena; nobles and thieves; Indian diamond merchants and financiers—nearly everyone of interest and importance from the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth century.
Written with enormous verve and ambition, The Diamond is a treat, a plum pudding of a novel filled with one delicious, funny, disgraceful episode after another. It is grand history and even grander fiction—a towering work of imagination, research, and narrative skill.
Julie Baumgold is the author of the novel Creatures of Habit. She is a former contributing editor of New York, Esquire, and Vogue. She has been an essayist (The Best American Essays 1996), poet (Mademoiselle Poetry Prize), and the columnist "Mr. Peepers" for New York and Esquire. She lives on Amelia Island and in New York.