It is the very early days of cinematography – so early that Thomas Edison is still inventing the Kinetoscope – and Jacob Rosenbloom is the genius who invents a small part that makes it work better. Hard work and enormous wealth follow, as do love and tragedy and death, and before too long Jacob and his ten-year-old son Joseph (nicknamed “Bloom”) are heading across the country for some property inland from the West Coast, a nameless “desert” area where Jacob had spent some happy years long before the present. In a villa with a tragic past, young Bloom grows up in relative isolation, with the stars and the desert and the all-encompassing silence of the estate on Mount Terminus that nurtures his soul and imagination to fantastical heights.
This is not an easy book to read; there are some incredibly lyrical passages as well as descriptions that are labyrinths intertwined within mazes. The imagery that informed early movie making – with its motifs of surrealism, magical realism, dreams and fantasy – is almost overwhelming at times, as I expect Grand intends it to be. Bloom is an artist of the imagination who becomes intimately involved in creating unearthly spectacles on film. But his early and long isolation from the world becomes both an asset and a liability when he is confronted with certain realities his father has kept hidden from him – the true story of his mother’s madness, the existence of a half-brother, the burden of life and death his father has struggled with. Mount Terminusis a fascinating, magical story which lingers in the mind long after one reaches the end. Recommended, but be patient!