Friday, May 2, 2008

Book Review of Jewels...or how Annette O'Toole tries to pronounce Joachim

I was first exposed to Jewels by the infamous Danielle Steele around 1992 when it first appeared on Lifetime as a miniseries.

Many of the happy times with Joan (my mother) was watching really cheesy mini-series on television. Many a Saturday of my youth was spent on the red and black carpet while my mother sat on the the brown coach as we watched bad actors doing bad renditions of even worse novels. I could write blogs upon blogs of 'movies' such as Scarlett, Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story, Norma Jean, and many, many more. But I digress.

Shortly after watching the fantastic portrayal of Sarah "the duchess of Whitfield" by a woman who would later play Clark Kent/Superman's mom, I ran out and borrowed the book from our local library. I should insert here that our local library was about the size of a poor family's den, and contained about as many trashy novels as it did children's books, and little else.

The book opens as most of Danielle's books does: an aging Sarah Whitfield is going through her family pictures and a flashback that encompasses the rest of the book (sans the last chapter) ensues.

Sarah Thompson, a young, of course wealthy, and vibrant young woman of the 1930's, marries a young man and over the course of their one year marriage he beats the hell out of her and (would it be wrong to say "of course" here?) throws her around and causes her to miscarry their child. Did I mention this guy is named Freddie? Unless your last name is Mercury, no grown man calls himself Freddie. Take a lesson, Danielle. Anyway, Sarah's parents, infuriated, allow her to divorce Freddie and quickly take her on a vacation to Europe. Depression, Shmepression.

While visiting England and watching the ever loved sport of Cricket, she meets William Whitfield, the Duke of Whitfield whom the ladies call the most eligible bachelor in all of London! He falls for her and even follows her to Rome when she and her parents leave England to finish their tour of Europe. At no point does she think this is 'creepy' instead she finds it adorable and when he proposes she immediately accepts. That's the way it works in magical Danielle Steele world, you meet, fall in love, and marry in only a few weeks.

OF COURSE they have a discussion about getting pregnant on their wedding night and OF COURSE it happens. During their first Christmas together he announces he has bought her a chateau in France and she announces she's pregnant, "I think your wish came true and it happened on our wedding night..." Ew. But whatever.

Let's talk about this "chateau" shall we? It's big enough to have a 'servants' house which the Whitfields live in while the main house is being renovated. While construction is going on, Sarah finds a local French woman living in the long abandoned house. Knowing no one, Sarah and "Emanuelle" become best friends. Emanuelle becomes the nanny to all of Sarah's children and manager of the chain of jewelry stores they will come to own later. Sarah gives birth to a boy, Phillip, and shortly thereafter a little girl named Elizabeth. But OH No! World War II interrupts their happiness and alters their future.

While William is off at war, Sarah, Emanuelle, and the children stay in the chateau and are overtaken by the Nazis during the German occupation of France. Although Emanuelle is almost raped by the young Aryans, Sarah and the commandant of the area, Joachim, become friends and he promises no harm to her family or Emanuelle (too late!) if they just let them do their work and move into the servants' house. The chateau is turned into a hospital and Sarah volunteers to help the wounded, "because, Emanuelle, if William were ever hurt, I would want a German woman to take care of him!" Whatev. On a sad note, her daughter Elizabeth falls ill and dies. AND William is now missing on the front. AND Emanuelle has joined the resistance and is MIA all the time.

After a bit, the Germans have to leave (duh) and Joachim begs Sarah to come with him; she can't "William is still out there, my heart knows it, I know it!" She tells him how she will always have a place for him in her heart because of taking care of Elizabeth when she was dying. He tells her he is going to return after the war, because he knows they are meant to be together. Whatever, when he does come back William has returned and Emanuelle shuts the door in Joachim's face.

When William does return he is paralyzed from the waist down, but thank GOD, his tally-whacker still works and Sarah and William go on to have three more kids. While prego with Julian (the oldest after Phillip) Emanuelle asks Sarah and William if they will buy the locals jewelry so the locals can afford to live. Isn't this called "profiting of war"? They agree and end up with boxes and boxes of jewelry and gems. Sarah decides that they could open a store and sell the jewelry (again, 'profiting of war') and become even more rich!! Yippee!!

Things are going smashingly until William dies after the twins are born. Phillip grows up to be a nasty, archetype British royal snob and marries a woman who knows a lot about horses. Julian grows up to have a fantastic Miami Vice haircut and marries a model who then leaves him for his older brother Phillip. The twins, a boy, Xavier, and a girl, Isabelle, grow up and Xavier goes on to 'mine gemstones in Africa.' I take this to mean that he cracks the whip over the slaves that work for DeBeers, but whatever. Isabelle decides that she is in love with a thirty year old (Lorenzo) while she's eighteen and agrees to marry him so Mommy can't keep them apart. OF COURSE Lorenzo ends up wanting to spend all her money and not her, but won't agree to a divorce.

During all this, Sarah's jewelry store Whitfields has become jewelers to the queen (they'd better - they're family!) and Sarah makes it a chain throughout Europe.

Thankfully, the children are half American so when Julian's model wife discovers she's pregnant with what she figures is Phillip's son she's so excited and is ready to divorce Julian. SURPRISE!! Phillip had a vasectomy during his first marriage and the child is Julian's. Oh well, she gives the baby to Julian to raise and marries Phillip. How American is that? My mommy is also my aunt. HA!

In true Danielle Steele fashion, the novel ends with the flashback is over. An elderly Sarah sets her photographs away and is done remembering the past forty years. Her grandson, Max (Julian's), is pulling her away. Aw, it's a good old fashioned American family reunion. Julian isn't mad at Phillip for stealing his wife, he is just happy to have a baby; Isabelle is still married to the old guy, but pregnant with her lover's baby; Phillip is happily married to his younger brother's ex wife; and Xavier is just there, but dressed in full safari gear - pith helmet and all (we get it, he lives in Africa!!).

All in all, this is probably one of my favorite Danielle Steele books, with the exception of one little scene. When Sarah goes to Italy to help Isabelle leave her money grubbing husband, she runs into Joachim - small world, no? Anywho, he's happily married, but of COURSE he still loves her. OF COURSE he was acquitted during the Nuremberg trials because he was a low officer (IN THE NAZIS) of a hospital, not one of the Nazis who ran a death camp. He tells her of the day when he came back for her and Emanuelle shut the door in his face; she tells him Emanuelle never told her of it. They make sweet, sweet love in a Ritzy hotel. They both realize that although their love for each other is real, it was for a time long ago. He tells her he will always love her, she tells him she will always be grateful for what he did for Elizabeth. DOES ANYONE REMEMBER HE'S A NAZI?! I wonder in bed if he calls out "Mien Fuhrer" rather than "My GOD!"? You know, just by accident?


EGT said...

"Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story"

OMG! I *love* this film! It taught me everything I need to know about French history. (That, and this illuminating review of Danielle Steele's "Jewels." I must admit I don't read her, after reading the one she wrote about the Titanic that was basically all about people's lives being ruined for hundreds of pages and then being magically happy at the end. Wait a second--is that actually the *point* of her books? Am I an idiot?!)

Anonymous said...

OMG- your tale was much more riveting and humerous than the novel or "made for TV" version.
Please do "Sisters" as I've been tempted to reread it and should be spared!

Bea's mom

"Lady" Bea said...

Also, in which I reveal my geekiness re: Jurgen Prochnow and Joachim.

Also, mocking Annette O'Toole for being on "Smallville" never gets old. Though she does get credit for being married to Michael McKeon and co-writing the kiss song from "A Mighty Wind."

Hee hee hee.

Finally? Nazis suck. But Mame rules.