In her most recent novel, Joanna Scott sweeps the reader back to the mid-1950s, a time of prosperity for most Americans. However, prosperity has passed over the Murdoch family, and in a desperate attempt to regain his pride and financial stability, Murray Murdoch moves his young family to Elba, a tiny island off the coast of Italy. For Oliver Murdoch and his brothers, their year on Elba is one of the best of their lives. The unhappiness and self-involvement of their parents gives them freedom to roam the island at will, and their wild exploits create memories that, fifty years later, Oliver remembers—or believes he remembers—as clearly as if they happened yesterday. For Oliver’s mother, Claire, life on Elba is full of uncertainty and a pervasive sense of being an outsider. Finally, for Murray, Oliver’s father, the escape to the island brings only failure, disappointment, and scandal.

Tourmaline is a beautifully written, sensitive novel that both tugs at your heart and makes you laugh. Thanks to Scott’s vivid description, you feel the depth of Murray’s despair when he becomes “trapped by the wish to escape from the wish to escape from the wish.” And, while Oliver and his brothers are in many ways wise beyond their years, they still delight in the humorous play and squabble of all siblings. Scott is a wordsmith of the highest quality, and her lyrical prose will keep you turning the pages.



Share this review

Buy "The Beggar at the Gate & Other Stories" for £2.05 (Kindle edition)

12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award






(US) $23.95
(UK) £13.78
(CA) $43.95

(US) 0316776181




Appeared in

Reviewed by