Orphan Johnny Lance grows up side-by-side with Benedict and Tracey van der Byl, the two children that he has always loved like brother and sister. That is, until one unfortunate night, his life changes forever. Johnny devotes his life to the family business – Van Der Byl Diamonds – in an unfathomable desire for approval and triumph.
The Diamond Hunters is the first book I have read of Wilbur Smith. The cover looks like something I would’ve found on my grandparents’ bookshelf and some of the Afrikaans words used are slightly archaic, so it gave me an eerie nostalgic feeling before even properly starting it. Besides occasionally getting frustrated with the stubborn stupidity of the main characters, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! The story is fast-paced and loaded with drama, but not so much that Smith does not have time to provide the reader with fascinating, contextual information and a welcome moment of humour here and there.
At first I thought that the story is build around the old theme of a child looking for the approval of his father figure, but there is more to it. It was only close to the end that I became aware of how I identify with Johnny’s behaviour and recognized that familiar yet peculiar phenomena: the love-hate relationship. Don’t we all have those people in our lives that we can’t bear, but still try to please? Those people that we don’t actually like, but still admire? And in a more extreme scenario: those people we want to kill, but end up saving. I found the ending tragic and slightly bizarre, but deeply touching – I could not hold back the tears.
Although the protagonist and his co-stars were not necessarily my favourite characters, I still enjoyed them – they were portrayed with intensity and vividness. What I enjoyed even more were the smaller roles such as Lettie Pienaar, Hugo Kramer and the jolly Sergio Caporetti.
Although somewhat violent at times, this was an appealing blend of action, adventure, betrayal and love.