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Jack of Diamonds

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  756 ratings  ·  136 reviews
During the Great Depression there was little hope for a boy born into the slums of Cabbagetown, Toronto. But Jack Spayd is offered a ticket out in the form of a Hohner harmonica, won by his brutal drunken father in a late-night card game. Jack makes music as a way of escaping his surroundings, and his talent leads him to a jazz club and, eventually, to the jazz piano.

Jack...more
Hardcover, 705 pages
Published November 12th 2012 by Penguin Australia (first published November 2012)
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Exoticbrett
I have a love/hate relationship with Bryce Courtenay's novels. I don't believe he's a great writer. But occasionally amongst the overwriting and repetitiveness, there's a quote-worthy gem to be found. The Power of One had plenty. This one, not so much. Way too long, but nothing some razor-sharp editing couldn't fix, and has a slight soap opera/tv movie feel about it, but it does pick up in the last 200 pages or so (particularly the African scenes).

There's no denying he can tell a story, and if y...more
Tania
Don't you hate it when you're so looking forward to a book, and then (maybe because of the high expectations) it's so disappointing you can't even finish it. After reading 400 pages I gave up on Jack. He is just oh so perfect - best at school, music prodigy, so attractive, poker expert etc. I started hoping that something bad would happen to him, so I could feel something for him, and it would become more than just a story. And I really wanted to like this as it was Bryce Courtenay's last book,...more
Sarah
Bryce Courtney will always be one of my favorite authors, the way he is able to evoke such emotion out of simple things in his novels truly inspires my love for reading. I am definitely at a loss now he has passed away; and I feel a void where his characters always danced to life in my imagination.

This book was very different to the Bryce I have been reading; but none-the-less it is a beautiful journey of Jack growing up through adverse situations and overall overcoming the odds (haha no pun in...more
Debby
When I read (in my case, listen) to a book, I want a story. I like epic stories, with history mixed in. I'm not a literature major, nor an editor. I don't pick apart an author's use of grammar or prose. If the storyline draws me in, and I feel as though I get to know the character's well, and find myself wishing that the story won't end-- then I'm happy. That's why I like Bryce Courtenay's books. Add to the mix that Humphrey Bower is the narrator, I've listened to the majority of his books. I kn...more
Tony Nielsen
I had mixed feelings about Jack of Diamonds on two fronts. Firstly I knew it was Bryce Courtenay's 21st and final book, in fact he died before I got to start it. Secondly although I have read all of his novels and really liked many of them, of late I felt that they were getting a little on the "soppy" side, even condescending, dare I say it. By the time I was halfway through this one I was already marking it down as a 2 or 3 stars, but I then got drawn more into the story. Jack is a self depreca...more
Kathleen Hagen
Jack of Diamonds, by Bryce Courtenay, Narrated by Humphrey Bowers, Produced by Bolinda Publishing, Downloaded from audible.com.

And here we come to Bryce Courtenay’s very last book. He passed away very soon after finishing it. In this book he places his hero, Jack, in Toronto Canada. He has a father who is a drunk and beats his mother and him. Finally, with the help of the police chief, they rid the family of the father, who moves on to live with someone else. Jack has wonderful musical talent ea...more
Jackie
I wanted to adore this book, and see one last masterpiece from one of Australia’s best-loved authors. I remember reading "The Power of One" as a teenager, and it had a profound effect on me, leaving an indelible imprint of a harsh African vista and a powerful punch to the solar plexus. Boxing, boys, apartheid and the most wonderful and horrible characters. Who will ever forget the black prisoners standing up to the brutal prison guards, and the carnage that followed? I next delved head-first int...more
Peter
Bryce Courtenay is a superb story teller but Jack of Diamonds was far too long. The first 350 pages covered Jack Spayd's upbringing and this could've been condensed into a punchy 100 pages. The book actually gets interesting when Las Vegas and the Mafia are introduced and Courtenay cleverly blends the true life events regarding the building of the Flamingo, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky into his story. I read about 25 pages a night up until about half way...I finished the last half in two nights...more
Steve
This book is a coming of age story, and I could certainly see the similarities between it and the authors first book, The Power of One, and I found it fascinating to do so, since this book is his last; but that is not to say that it is a facsimile of his first book. The chapters were overly long, and some parts were quite hard to read, due to the author puling no punches about calling a spade a spade -- even in the case of domestic violence, but even weighing in at over 700 pages, it didn't feel...more
Cherie
I am honered to have chosen to read Mr. Courtenay's last book as my first of his, and I am looking forward to reading his other 20.

It was a long story, but a good one. It was well written and the characters all seemed very real. I thought it dragged just a little in places, but I did not really mind.

I learned about jazz music and early Las Vegas in Nevada, USA. About piano bars and gambling, not to mention about Cabbagetown, near Toronto, in Quebec, Canada. I learned a little about Canada's in...more
Katrina
This book was a mammoth read!! I got a little over the story after Jack left Las Vegas....I think it just got too long! But overall I loved most of the story, particularly the jazz scene in the 30s and 40s and the development of Las Vegas as a casino city. The research really added a depth to this story that only Bryce Courtenay could achieve. His story telling will be sorely missed!
Bruce McNair
My first Bryce Courtenay book. And I must say I wasn't disappointed. The story follows Jack Spayd from childhood in the slums of Toronto during the Great Depression. Through the various life decisions he makes to become a great Jazz pianist and more than useful poker player. Unfortunately he falls foul of the Mafia in Las Vegas and high tails it to Africa, where unfortunately he falls foul of the miners he works with. But it all ends well in London. A very entertaining book in which the master s...more
Jilly Lind
None of Courtenays' books will ever quite compare to reading The power of one but because of The Power of One I always keep coming back for more. I felt particularly sentimental about this book knowing this was his last. A good yarn with some lovable supporting characters. Bryce Courtenay you are an amazing writer and man you will be missed.

Jane Durbridge
Editor? Hello? Why did we need to know facts over and over again - if I read Rachmaninoff one more time I was going to stop (not really. I wanted to finish it for bookclub and it was an easy to read although unbelievable story).
Jenna Mills
I LOVED this book! Having been disappointed with Bryce's last few books, I decided to listen to his last one on audiobook (to give me a break from the Wheel of Time series). I don't know whether that played a part in my love for it, or whether I would have loved it just as much had I read it in the traditional manner, but love every second of it, I did! Yes, the main character is as usual, sickening good at everything, but somehow I felt him human and vulnerable despite this. I actually had to s...more
Richard Mulholland
Loved this, Courtenay really was a "damn fine story teller" found myself quite melancholy as I finished it. I'd recommend this to any Courtenay fan, the man fas a master right up to the end.
Thomas
Could not finish this. I love Bryce Courtenay normally. But this was so repetitive and boringly safe. Nope, can't bring myself to keep reading it. Too many books in the world.
Kassandra
Bryce Courtenay has long had a place in my heart since he wrote one of my favourite books, The Power of One. For the last 20+ years, I have read each of his tomes and while not all of them have captured me with the same moving spirit as his first, I have enjoyed all of them. I have been looking forward to the Jack of Diamonds for over a year now and while I purchased it upon it's release, I had difficulty actually starting it. Knowing it was Courtenay's final work, I found myself wanting to dela...more
Irene Dunn-vella
would not recommend this book. Read previous books of his and I loved them maybe my expectations were too high!
Cathy Smith
It seems like The Power Of One story line revisited in a Canadian setting with music replacing boxing.
Christins
It's was a good book but I found it dragged a little..
Karin
First Bryce Courtnay book to disappoint.
D.A. Cairns
Ironically, the part of this novel, Courtenay's final, was the epilogue. Jack of Diamonds is an epic tale spanning decades, travelling from Canada to Las Vegas to Africa, and featuring a cast of amazing characters. It's everything Courtenay fans expect from this master storyteller. It contains all the elements - suspense, drama, comedy and romance- needed for good entertainment and it is exactly that.

The problem for me was that I didn't really care. The main character, Jack Spayd, has a rough ch...more
Matt
Courtenay's final book is as much a treat for the reader as any of his previous literary works. Set in the bustling city of Toronto (Canada) in the middle of the Depression, Courtenay paints a picture of the Canadian inter-war years and the struggles of a poor boy trying to make sense of life and all its obstacles. What begins as a wonderful story of young Jack Spayd, who discovers the wonders of music, turns into a great tale of love, adventure, and the power of self-discovery. The reader is tr...more
Janice
I was excited about Bryce Courtenay's final book. Unfortunately, the book wasn't exciting. In fact, it was kind of boring. There were sections that should have been deleted as too long and irrelevant to the story. For example, Courtenay discussed the twins in length when their history was completely insignificant to the story. One or two paragraphs would have been sufficient to explain their rise to wealth and power.

It was interesting to read a book that was written by a non-Canadian (in this ca...more
Storm
I loved the novel, it did start a little slow, but you get emersed in the world building of Bryce's story right away, I loved Jack's mother, she was a dear, the harsh times of the Great Depression in Canada was truly heavy and sad, yet through it all, Jack is lucky, his music, a gift of amazing talent finds his life guided by several powerful and influential women. From Ms. Frostbite to the love of his life, Bridget.

Jack is drawn into his journey to manhood by his male mentor, joe and Mac, the l...more
Esil
I won this book from Goodreads. I had never heard of Bryce Courtenay and was a bit disheartened when I realized that this book was 700 pages long. I am happy to read first-read books that I might normally not choose to read from time to time, but 700 is a major commitment. Having made my way through the whole book, I would probably not choose to read this book if I had not won it and therefore had a sense of comitment to reading it. The narrative voice is oddly flat and the events in the main ch...more
Bev
I have read many of Bryce Courtenay's books, but not his most admired, The Power of One. I listened to this one, and have to say that yes, the story was quite slow. Listening to the acknowledgements, however, where the author praises good storytellers,(noting that this is how he would like to be remembered), I gladly admit that Bryce, you could spin a yarn! And listening, instead of reading, made that less laborious. Of course, Humphrey Bower who is now a favourite narrator ( I also listened to...more
Lejla
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wendy
Wow, Bryce Courtenay has sure gone out with a bang! I was captured right from the beginning and loved everything about this book. The story starts during the Depression in Canada and follows a young boy called Jack Spayd. He is given a harmonica by an abusive father for his 8th birthday. This harmonica soon shapes his life. The story follows Jack as he becomes a professional jazz pianist starting in Toronto, to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Las Vegas where he meets the love of his life and gets ent...more
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I was born illegitimately in 1933 in South Africa and spent my early childhood years in a small town deep in the heart of the Lebombo mountains.

It was a somewhat isolated community and I grew up among farm folk and the African people. At the age of five I was sent to a boarding school which might be better described as a combination orphanage and reform school, where I learned to box - though less...more
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