Tontine is a form of gambling - part lottery, part insurance. It begins with the Day the Battle of Waterloo was fought and ends at the closing of the 19th century.
The drama touches royalty and millionaires, actresses and sailors, planters and portrait painters. It ranges from London to the Caribbean, driven by a world in high gear, a world powered by greed.
But time flies by. Three survivors wait each other out. Then two, and at last, only one. . .a winner with everything but a future.
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Sprawls Over Most of a Century
This is a good book if you like really long novels which encompass [in this case] two families over most of a century. It begins just as the Battle of Waterloo is underway, and ends shortly before the 20th century. Large cast of characters -- sometimes a little hard to remember who is who. Costain is a competent writer, but I must admit that David Case is not one of my favorite readers, although he is somewhat better than usual with this book [the only other book I think he did really well was Margaret George's "Autobiography of Henry VIII"]. He can do accents, but his normal reading voice has a supercilious drawl to it.
Inevitably, the main characters age, and so there is more emphasis on them in their later years -- the whole plot revolves around who will survive the longest and win the "tontine", a form of gamble where the oldest survivor will get the most money out of the scheme. This means considerable dialogue where voices are quavering [and even rambling].
Definitely a "big read".