Book Review: The Alexandrite by Dione Jones

The Alexandrite…

About the Book:

Who is the stranger found dead in the woods, outside Pamela Lady Scawton’s family home? Why was he carrying a stone that changes colour and a threatening letter?

The quest leads from World War One to the present day and from an English village to New Zealand farmland, to discover how past events are intertwined with the present. To unravel the mystery Pamela is forced to confront truths that shatter her beliefs about her family and their place in the world.

The Alexandrite is a story of class conflict, hidden sins, and deceit.

My Thoughts:

This was a most enjoyable book. Relying on my memory only, I thought for sure this was the first novel I had read that had been written by an NZ author and that certainly it was the first one in an NZ setting. I was wrong though, checking back through my tags: it is actually the second! About time I read some more NZLit. I have travelled all through both islands of NZ, twice now, and I really enjoyed revisiting this beautiful country within this novel. There was such a vivid sense of place and time right throughout The Alexandrite, and not only in the NZ setting but also in the parts that took place in England.

The story orbits around this stone, called an alexandrite, which is rare and only mined in Russia, but not in recent times. The 1920s generation of Scawtons were a secretive bunch and while the blurb for this novel hints at a family mystery, there are actually two skeletons rattling around in this particular generation’s closet. This story really had to potential to be confusing, it is so vast, but I found it immensely satisfying, a real ‘get swept up and lost in the atmosphere and intrigue’ sort of novel – the one’s I like best.

The characterisation was wholly authentic and very closely aligned to what you would expect within each era. The majority of the story unfolds during 2013, but we revisit key characters right back through the decades, learning more about the family and the origins of its secrets as we go. Pamela (Lady Scawton) was a character I had a particular soft spot for and her son Charles was one whose neck I would have gladly rung several times over. In between these two, were a whole cast of other characters and I felt the author really captured the essence of each without relying on cliché stereotypes. The characters were just so realistic, sometimes painful, other times wonderful (with the exception of Charles who was permanently painful but even this was true to form) and at all times authentically rendered.

I can highly recommend The Alexandrite to those who enjoy family sagas with an element of mystery and an attention to historical detail. The author’s particular care to draw attention to Maori culture did not go unnoticed and added to the story. I also really enjoyed the commentary on class within England and the struggles of the ‘titled poor’, something I have come across in another novel this year and which held particular interest for me. All in all, there is little I could fault with this novel and much to be enjoyed. Dione Jones writes with flawless precision and I am keen to see what she might have waiting in the wings for us next.


Thanks is extended to Cloud Ink Press for providing me with a copy of The Alexandrite for review.

About the Author:

Dione Jones attempted to write her first book at aged 10. She was born in England and grew up in the countryside surrounded by National Trust common land. She achieved a B.A. at Trinity College, Dublin and then worked for an aeroplane salesman and learnt to fly, before venturing to New Zealand to help set up a laboratory to collect animal blood. In 2014 Dione was awarded a Master of Creative Writing from the Auckland University of Technology.
Married to Chris, she followed his involvement in farming, polo and property. They have two adult children and three grandchildren and live in south Auckland. Apart from her family, dogs and horses, she is interested in the environment we live in, historical changes in society – and, of course, good books and writing.

The Alexandrite
Published by Cloud Ink Press
Released 20th August 2019

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