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Jack of Diamonds

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,237 Ratings  ·  168 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.

Hardcover, 705 pages
Published November 12th 2012 by Penguin Australia (first published November 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,258)
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Jan 10, 2013 Exoticbrett rated it liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it did not like it
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
Oct 11, 2014 Debby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tony Nielsen
Dec 18, 2012 Tony Nielsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
Kathleen Hagen
Jack of Diamonds, by Bryce Courtenay, Narrated by Humphrey Bowers, Produced by Bolinda Publishing, Downloaded from

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
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
Mar 10, 2013 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
An enjoyable but very long story, I listened to it in the car and it took me some weeks to get through it. It would be quicker if you read it yourself, but then I might have not bothered to finish it. Jack got a bit on my nerves in the end, he seemed too good to be true and too lucky.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Task 16. An audiobook
Oct 19, 2013 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
May 04, 2013 Cherie rated it really liked it
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
Sep 06, 2014 Katrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2013 Bruce McNair rated it it was amazing
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.

For Bryce's last book I was really expecting not to be so disappointed. I had saved it for a long time and was hoping for more. I was shocked in many ways that it was set in part in Toronto, I dont believe he had ever been here so that was unusual. About a third of the way through it I was starting to wonder .... did he really write this book??? It didnt read like any of his other books and I wonder if he had it plotted out and someone else wrote it as in his son ... maybe?? Did anyone else thin ...more
Dosha (Bluestocking7) Beard
Jan 22, 2016 Dosha (Bluestocking7) Beard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, favorites
This is my first introduction to Bryce Courtenay and what a great adventure. I look forward to reading his earlier books. Little Jack came from humble and violent beginnings but was taken care of by his very hard working and little complaining mother; and the Black jazz crowd in Toronto. He became hooked on jazz harmonica and classical piano and eventually poker. Things got hairy, but he survived by the hair of his chinney chin chin as they say. It kept my interest as he traveled from Toronto to ...more
Dayna Brown
Nov 14, 2014 Dayna Brown rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After reading "The Persimmon Tree" & "The Australian Trilogy" I decided to read all of Bryce Courtenay's books because I loved them so much. I'm the type to find an author & read everything they have before moving on. I quickly found that Mr. Courtenay continues to use the same outline for the story over & over. He just switches up the characters names & their "special talent/interest" (boxing, music, law...) But they all follow the same steps & progression in life. They all ...more
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).
Jan 17, 2016 Don rated it it was amazing
I finished listening to the Jack of Diamonds today and was sad to see that I had reached the end of the story. It was the nest book I have listened to for some time. I stress 'listen' as the narrator's accents, Canadian, Italian, American, South African, German and Australian were, in my opinion, perfect.

Was the story line plausible...possibly. Was it a good read...definitely. A five star, favourite book does not come along very often.

Does it have a Mature Adult rating...definitely. Language wh
Jenna Mills
Feb 23, 2014 Jenna Mills rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 24, 2013 Richard Mulholland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, fiction
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.
Jan 12, 2014 Kassandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2014 Irene Dunn-vella rated it it was ok
would not recommend this book. Read previous books of his and I loved them maybe my expectations were too high!
Cathy Smith
Dec 26, 2012 Cathy Smith rated it it was ok
It seems like The Power Of One story line revisited in a Canadian setting with music replacing boxing.
Jan 29, 2013 Christins rated it it was ok
It's was a good book but I found it dragged a little..
Feb 13, 2014 Karin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Storm Meiying Liu
Oct 09, 2013 Storm Meiying Liu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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