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Natural Elementsby Richard Mason
Synopses & Reviews
In his much celebrated debut novel, The Drowning People, Richard Mason (“An Oxonian literary sensation” The New York Times Book Review) wrote with wisdom and mastery well beyond his twenty-one yearsabout love, betrayal, and revenge, and about the particular ritualized world of the English upper class.
Now in his dazzling new novel Mason writes about mothers and daughters; aging and death; memory and longing; history and narrative; and about the high-stakes, full-tilt embrace of life.
The setting is London. The time is the present.
Mother and daughter are choosing an assisted-living facility and have come to The Albany, a late-nineteenth-century Victorian mansion, the flagship property of the TranquilAge™ chain of nursing homes.
The mother, Joaneighty years old, a gifted amateur pianist denied the pleasures of performance by arthritic handshas recently been experiencing a rich inner world that she hides from her daughter, a world gained access through the (seemingly magic) pedals of her piano: a portal to adventure. She dreads the prospect of leaving her apartment, but her daughter has decided that she can no longer live on her own.
The daughter, Eloiseforty-eight, a hedge fund manager, two decades in commoditieslong ago rejected the possibilities of motherhood and has lived enviably free of responsibility.
At her pressure-cooker job, Eloise has bought up $130 million (a quarter of the hedge funds money) of osmium reservesa transition metalbased on a casual remark by her former lover, a French metallurgist, a genius of sorts, with whom she lived and whom she almost married in Paris in the 1980s.
Hes been working for years on the development of the compound, which will be tougher than diamonds for industrial use and is only months away from trials. If successful, it could more than double the value of the fund Eloise manages.
While mother and daughter are on the trip-of-a-lifetime to the South African capital of the old Orange Free State, the city of Joans girlhood, Eloise gets a frantic phone call. The price of osmium is in free fall; the fund is off-loading. . .
Fighting panic with a coherent strategy, Eloise puts in motion a bold gamble that risks allher future, the fund, her mothers well-being.
As the stories of mother and daughter intersect, each in a race against timeJoan struggling to live in the present (she cannot believe her days will end in an institution); her daughter racing at breakneck speed toward the precipice of disasterthe novel rushes to its stunning conclusion.
From the Hardcover edition.
In this moving, layered novel of memory and family, celebrated author Richard Mason tells the story of a mother and daughter, one caught in the past, one racing toward the future.
Joan is eighty years old, a gifted amateur pianist who can no longer play because of her arthritic hands. Joan’s daughter, Eloise, is an ambitious hedge fund manager who has decided to move her mother to an assisted-living facility. As a last hurrah, Eloise plans a trip to Joan’s childhood home in South Africa. What Joan discovers there summons long-buried secrets and opens up an entirely new world. Natural Elements is a dazzling tale of history and longing, and the high-stakes, full-tilt embrace of life.
About the Author
Richard Mason was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up there and in London. In 1999, Mason started the Kay Mason Foundation (www.kaymasonfoundation.org), which helps disadvantaged teenagers in South Africa attend the country’s best schools. Mason lives in Glasgow, Scotland.
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