By Richard Mason
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307387325, 416pp.)
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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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.
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.
“Lyrical, even spiritual. . . . Beautifully rendered.” —The New York Times Book Review
“An immensely readable magnum opus that encompasses the Boer War, the French Resistance, the conflict in Iraq, geriatric psychiatry, high finance, and metallurgy. . . . Engaging.” —The New Yorker
“A writer of great range and ambition. . . . Natural Elements resembles a piece of music with recurring motifs. Much like the composers whose work Joan has played in her youth, Mason skillfully interweaves and fuses different strands of plot.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Mason clearly has been blessed with unusual talent and a searching intelligence. . . . A mature, inventive, ambitious novel.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Slipping between a Boer War concentration camp and present-day London, [Natural Elements] is a thoughtful and at times hilarious challenge to assumptions about ageing, family and history, and draws an angry parallel between US action in Iraq and British action in the Transvaal.” —The Independent (London)
“Mason does an excellent job of showing how love and civility mask something darker.” —The New York Times
“Beautifully crafted, with two superbly drawn women at its heart.” —The Times (London)
“A fascinating saga where the destinies of two households are skillfully woven together, across the Nineteenth and the Twentieth centuries, between Africa and London. . . . The main characters are so intensely realized that sometimes they seem to step off the page.” —Vogue
“It takes real talent to create such a mixed bag of characters and paint them into so many different, but clear, pictures. . . . Most impressive.” —The Washington Times
“An incredibly mature novel. . . . Richard Mason is a hugely talented writer. When you read his book, you automatically think of authors like Thomas Mann and John Updike. This is a classic novel, written by a future literary master.” —Trouw (The Netherlands)
“A sweeping historical drama, mixing the political with the personal, as one family looks back at a very troubled past.” —Daily Mirror
“Mason is capable of thrilling concision: densely packed sentences pregnant with ideas; vivid descriptions; [and] terse, epigrammatic dialogue.” —The Sunday Telegraph (London)
“An engrossing tale of memory, ambition and shifting familial duties.” —Daily Mail
“It is fascinating how Mason shows the two different worlds: Joan, in her own estranged universe, and Eloise in the world of finance. . . . Mason describes with great subtlety and gentleness the slow emotional approach of mother and daughter. An incredible book.” —Neue Presse (Germany)
“Mason’s characters are undeniably colorful—dazzlingly so. . . . Mason’s boldness is to be admired—he is clearly a young writer who is not afraid to challenge himself.” —The Scotsman
“Skilled at creating evocative atmospheres in the most elegant prose, the 30-year-old Richard Mason is . . . one of our greatest living authors.” —La Repubblica (Italy)
“Shocking, compassionate and exquisitely written.” —Woman & Home
“Mason plays out [Joan and Eloise’s] lives with delicacy, delving deep into the emotional and spiritual landscapes of both women. . . . Full of dramatic turns and colorful secondary characters.” —Curled Up With a Good Book