Good Reading : November 2005
8 goodreading ı NOVEMBER 2005 reading group Tourmaline is the story of Murray Murdoch, a debt-ridden American who uproots his family – wife Claire and four sons, the youngest of whom is Ollie – and transplants them to the island of Elba, where Murray is convinced he will be able to make his fortune from the island’s abundant deposits of the gemstone tourmaline. But the feckless Murray falls for a mysterious young islander, Adriana, who is also the object of the affection of an elderly and eccentric English historian, Francis Cape. Then Adriana disappears, and the local community begins to suspect Murray of involvement. Forty-ﬁve years later, Ollie, now 50, returns to the island to learn the truth behind Adriana’s disappearance and the events that led to his father’s downfall. JUNE This was a book that I found easy to put down, and then was sur- prised to find that I was looking for- ward to picking it up again. I enjoyed the history lesson, and Joanna Scott writes so well about the island of Elba and Napoleon’s exile there, and also about tour maline. The description of Mur ray, Claire and their four young sons leaving America bound for Elba was well done, and I wanted everything to work in their favour and for Mur ray to have his dreams realised, but that was not to be. The characters we meet on Elba are interesting, but except for Francis Cape not developed sufficiently for my liking. But the descriptive writ- ing, carefully sliding from one point of view to another, was outstanding. DESLEY I had a completely different take on it. I saw Tourmaline as in the main a study of memory, and how time, experiences, age and the power of sug- gestion compound to adjust its truth. JOSHIE I felt the use of Italian in the book was ir ritating. I thought it was selfish of the author. Does she write a book for an audience or for her own gratification? If the author were Italian I would understand that she feels she could only express her deepest feelings or thoughts in Italian, but she is not. MAREE The Italian was absolutely meaningless – if you’re going to write about another language you have to do it cleverly so that you can imply what the meaning was, but this sentence here, on page 162, the note that Adriana leaves – well, that was so ir ritating. Was that really significant, or does it mean nothing? And page 107 is a whole lot of questions but it leads nowhere, and there are no answers. JACKIE When I met one of the other book club ladies during the week she said to me, Why did we choose that book? And I had an epiphany last night in bed, I suddenly woke up when I realised why [the gr person] chose the book for us. Because here we all are on Paradise, which is what I called PNG when I wrote to her, we’re all leading the good life but we’re all prisoners in a gilded cage. For Claire and Mur ray Elba eventually becomes a prison, but they couldn’t leave because it would look suspicious. Did they stay for six- teen months because Murray needed to clear his name, or because he needed to satisfy the secret love in his heart? And where do people on an island go to when they want to get away? LO I suppose the word that makes me think about this book is ‘exile’. It just felt like the comparison to Napoleon – that he was exiled there, and I felt that other people had been exiled there, in a form; that Murray was there because perhaps life was too tricky for him in the States; Claire was there because she loved to be alone and seemed to enjoy the quiet moments; and the boys rev- elled in the exile from the responsibili- ties as boys needing to go to school, and I think that was a real treasure in the book, to see four boys who didn’t seem to have other children in their lives find their way of belonging in the family, the jockeying for position; each found their own role. So Ollie was the lookout person. Being the youngest in the fam- ily, the other roles had been taken so he became the more emotional one. And they needed to rely on each other, so I’d love to read a book about the rela- tionship they had in their adult life. JUNE But Murray’s love and need of alcohol was depressing, and the descrip- tion of his eventual four-day binge was quite extraordinary. And I became mad at Claire as a mother for her lack of respon- sibility for the children, two of whom were under six. And one wonders how the family managed to keep on opening and partaking of good bottles of wine! JACKIE Mur ray would make a very good second-hand car salesman. He’s away from home The Port Moresby Book Club of Papua New Guinea meets once a month for lunch. The club members are all expatriates, mostly from Australia and England, based – some temporarily – in PNG. Because so many members travel a lot, they are never all present at the same time. So despite having 14 members, only ten were present at Jackie’s house when the club met to discuss Tourmaline by Joanna Scott, and Faye had not had a chance to read the book. Another problem the group faces is that there is only one – tiny – bookstore in Port Moresby so books are normally obtained on trips off the island or from the internet.
December January 2006