I have read several books by this author and have enjoyed them. This book surprised me with the deep history of Poland and some about the Catholic church. I enjoyed the story and learned some new things. This book is worth your time!
Florian's Gate is the first book in "The Priceless Collection" series by Davis Bunn; it has also been released before in 1992. The setting is London and Poland shortly after the Berlin Wall has fallen. The main characters are Jeffrey Sinclair, who is from America and his cousin Alexander Kantor, who is from Poland, but is very wealthy and has residences all over Europe.
Alexander Kantor has a reputation for obtaining the most exquisite and rare antiques for his antique business. People wonder where he gets them because he rarely produces the provenance for his finds. Is he involved in something shady or even illegal? He is approaching 70 years of age and hires his cousin Jeffrey to work for him to learn the business and eventually take over. Jeffrey doesn't know this when he accepts the job. After about a year, Alexander takes Jeffrey on his first buying trip. What Jeffrey discovers on this trip is shocking and life changing. Alexander feels it is time to deal with his past, but can he wade through the myriad of emotions to find resolution and peace?
Jeffrey Sinclair is approaching 30 and bored with his life in America. When his cousin travels from London to offer him a job, Jeffrey realizes this is the opportunity of a lifetime and readily accepts. Jeffrey must learn the ins-and-outs of the antique business. He also builds a reputation for honesty in the antique world. He is fascinated by his assistant Katya and believes she is the "one". She is very reserved and questions him about his faith or lack thereof. She is a strong believer and wonders why Jeffrey is not. Jeffrey wonders what Katya is keeping from him and why she won't completely trust him.
This is a well-researched and well-written book with descriptions of antiques and places that give the reader a "you are there" feeling as if you are really seeing what is being described. I learned about the antique business and Polish culture, history and Communist Poland. There was also a gut-wrenching and heart-rending portion of the story that takes place at Auschwitz, one of the Nazi concentration camps during WWII. This is described in vivid detail and just made my heart ache for what these people endured. Readers also see Poland post-Communism and the intense struggles that take place just to live every day. The story takes a while to get moving, however. It is rather tedious at the beginning, but don't give up. Jeffrey and Alexander are very likeable characters. The question of why does God allow suffering is addressed, and the two men begin to seek Him.
I really enjoy all of T Davis Bunn's books, even if the description doesn't sound like it would be something I would usually read. Although I know nothing about antiques, I feel like his descriptions were easy to picture. This was almost two stories in one, with the second part being about Poland and it's history after the war. It was heartbreaking to hear how the Polish people had to live. And, of course the tour of the camp, indescribable and devastating. I will definitely re-read this one and have already recommended it.
I know little of the antique business, but Florian's Gate gave me a glimpse into the world of antique trading that piqued my interest from the start of the book. Jeffrey Sinclair takes a job at a London antique shop, where he learns the business and tries to figure out the mysterious nature of his boss, Alexander Kantor. He finds himself more and more attracted to the lovely Katya, who keeps him at a distance.
Jeffrey's position takes him to Europe, where he not only seeks valuable antiques, but learns the hardships their owners endure as they adjust to freedom after the fall of the iron curtain. He discovers that part of the mystery surrounding Alexander stems from his painful memories of communist occupation in Ploand.. Katya, he learns, is protecting her wounded heart against further hurt.
The author skillfully weaves his story with vivid characters and leads his readers through their emotional and spiritual journeys. Relationships and circumstances grow naturally against a backdrop of historical fact.
From his description of the bidding at the auction chamber to the gut wrenching memories of Auschwitz relived through the eyes of his characters, Davis Bunn provides a deep reading experience. I found this to be an intense, thought-provoking read and I strongly recommend it to those who enjoy excellent character development and intriguing plot developments.
This book was provided to me by Hendrickson Publishers through Fred St Laurent and the Book Club Network (bookfun.org) in exchange for my honest opinion.