Monday, November 09, 2009


The Tontine, Volume 2, Thomas B Costain, Doubleday & Company Inc, 1955, 464 pp

I made my way through the second half of this tale and despite my curiosity about the winner of the Tontine, it was just too long. Perhaps the trouble was that this is the winding down portion. All those intrepid figures from Volume 1 grow old, suffer the slings and arrows, but the younger generation just doesn't measure up.

Even the outcome of the Tontine, which finally comes down to three contenders as well as some violence and trickery, feels anticlimactic and just as tired and old as the three themselves. The most enjoyable part was the manner in which the feud between the original families was resolved by the third generation.

I have enjoyed Costain's historical fiction, this being the fifth one I have read. The best were two of his earlier ones: The Black Rose, 1945 and The Moneyman, 1947. He only began writing fiction in his late 50s and by 1955 was getting on himself. The first big financial meltdown after the rise of industrialism occurred in the late 1800s and is covered in The Tontine, Volume 1. (Also see Stone's Fall by Iain Pears.) It is interesting and instructive in these odd financial times we are having, to see the effects of that earlier one.

(As mentioned in my last post, Volume 2 of The Tontine is most easily acquired from used booksellers. Stone's Fall is available on the shelf in hardcover at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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