by Joanna Scott
A review by Adrienne Miller
"Born into a family clinging to its shrinking fortune," the extravagant (but broke) Murray Murdoch hauls his wife and four sons from America to an idyllic Italian island called Elba to strike it rich in tourmaline. What's tourmaline? you ask. "Everything and nothing. Tourmaline is what a man looks for when he doesn't know what he's looking for." That Murray ends up borrowing more money than he earns turns out to be the least of his problems. A captivating young local woman named Adriana Nardi is missing, and Murray, whose sexual involvement with her seems all but certain, may or may not have had something to do with it. Adriana has vanished, as it were, into thin air, without a sign, without a trace. And the town interest-level with Adriana, which was always high (interestingly, it wasn't beauty that fascinated; her allure seems to have had more to do with her haughty intelligence), reaches a fever-pitch after her disappearence: The Elbans dream about her -- rich, intense, deadly dreams; in the dreams of Francis Cape, a depressing old writer, he's Napoleon, and she his nubile concubine. (Francis Cape, by the way, turns out to be less innocuous than he initially appears.) Narrated principally by Ollie, the youngest of the four sons, who recounts events that happened half a century before, Tourmaline is about the tricks of memory, about fear and longing, guilt and redemption. Joanna Scott is a worker of wonders, and Tourmaline is a wondrous novel, one which should be read and then read again.
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