Tourmaline
by Joanna Scott
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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What is tourmaline? Tourmaline is a mix of boric oxide, silica, water, iron, etcetera, etcetera. The chemical composition of tourmaline is longer than the alphabet. What is tourmaline? Everything and nothing. Tourmaline is what a man looks for when he doesn't know what he's looking for.

Tourmaline is what Murray Murdoch was looking for when he uprooted his American family in the late 1950's and moved them to the Italian island of Elba. Murray is running from debt and failure at home.

Joanna Scott's novel follows the Murdoch family as they adjust to their surroundings. Murray's wife, Claire, watches over their four young boys as he looks for the island opportunity that will get them back on their feet.

Son Oliver, with Claire providing some past recollections in the present, narrates the Murdoch's story. The family befriended several locals and they play prominent roles in the tale. When a young lady disappears from the island, Murray is suspected in local gossip.

Tourmaline is like a story told in snapshots. It's difficult to see how the characters move and feel amongst each other in this set of pictures. Napoleonic history and Elba's geography flow alongside the characters' actions.

Scott's novel is one that gains the attention of prominent award committees, though voracious pleasure readers won't feel sated. The tale is rich in physical description yet not convincing in its intent. The brothers' relationship and interactions are the most endearing aspects of the story.

Tourmaline is a beautifully written tale. Lovers of literature will appreciate the novel more than casual readers. The reconstruction of the Murdoch family didn't work for me but the presentation of post-World War II Elba is exquisite.

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