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Date Posted: 06:23:26 02/14/04 Sat
Author: Syl
Subject: The Touch

Here's this week's review, sent in by Bandruidh. Thanks, lass!

TITLE: The Touch

AUTHOR: Colleen McCullough (well known for her novel “The Thorn Birds” copyright 1977)

GENRE: Historical Drama

Spanning the time period between 1872 through 1900 Ms. McCullough once again amazes with her unerring ability to draw the reader into the lives of her characters and the heartbreak they endure because of paths taken due to greed, lust, or lack of choice.

Alexander Kinross, or “Alexander the Great”, as he fancies himself, left his native Scotland as a shiftless teenager and Godless rebel. He now is a self-made millionaire who has the “Midas Touch” when it comes to discovering and mining gold. What he wants next is a Scottish bride from the town of his birth. Someone to lavish his riches on and show those who thought him worthless as a boy what he has made of himself.

Arriving in Sydney, Australia from Scotland, 16 year-old Elizabeth Drummond meets for the first time her husband-to-be only to discover that he frightens and repels her. Having no choices and unable to return home, she marries Alexander and is whisked away to the town of Kinross, named after himself. Waiting for her there she finds a mansion and riches beyond her imagination in the wild countryside of Australia. Isolated on a lonely hilltop with only Chinese servants, Elizabeth finds herself falling deeper and deeper into a prison of loneliness and fear as Alexander expects her to submit to the duties of marriage and projecting the image of high-born wealth that society demands. Little does she realize that Alexander also keeps a mistress in the town - tough, sensual, out spoken Ruby Costevan, who loves Alexander, but knows she can only hold his heart, not his life. Ruby’s young son, Lee, fathered by the leader of the Mandarin Chinese community, becomes dear to Alexander, who fosters a close relationship with him and assists in his education. Knowing the prejudices he may endure due to his status as a child born of mixed race and a mother whose previous occupation was as madam of a brothel, Alexander sends Lee far away from Kinross to England for his education.

Alexander always gets what he wants and is captured by the very different natures of the two women in his life. But he can never understand why Ruby loves him when she can never have him and Elizabeth has him, but professes she will never love him. Elizabeth bears him two daughters. Nell, brilliant and so like her father, but unable to carry on his name, follows in his footsteps breaking down walls that had prevented women to learn that which only men were allowed to do. And haunting, beautiful Anna, who presents her father with a torment for which he cannot buy his way out. Desiring a son, Alexander turns to Ruby’s son as a possible heir to his empire, one that grows enormous with each passing day. Little does he know the disastrous consequences of his actions to future events.

Alexander, Elizabeth and Ruby are intermingled with a rich cast of characters that will take the reader into a greater depth of understanding, horror, and sadness culminating in a stunning and shocking climax. The story alternates passion, tragedy, and pathos that compel the reader to wonder with each passing page whether anyone will have peace in their lives. In the beginning you may find a very honest dislike to some of the main characters, but as the story unfolds you find yourself feeling entirely different as you come to understand their vulnerabilities, trials, and anguished choices.

In summary, I like this book very much. Even Ms. McCullough description of the workings of steam powered engines needed for mining gold are written to enhance the story, not bog it down with boring or unintelligible details. Once I had let go of the thought that this is not “The Thorn Birds”, I found a story that kept me wanting to know more. And any book that takes me away into a different time and place so completely is one I wish others to know about.

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[> Bandruidh, thanks so much for the great review. I was curious about this book but wanted to know more before buying it. I'm definately going to check it out now. -- MJT, 12:23:40 02/14/04 Sat

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[> I do like Ms. McCullough's work. I bought "Morgan's Run" recently- it's next on my list to read. I'll have to get "The Touch" too! -- Madame Cardoza, 18:34:18 02/14/04 Sat

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[> [> I've got Morgan's Run waiting to be read as well. Let me know what you think when you've read it. -- Keira, 06:56:56 03/25/04 Thu

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[> Bandruidh this sounds like a very intriguing book. I have never read The Thorn Birds but I've seen it on TV - so heartbreaking - the wanting but can't having *G* - Yummmmmm Richard Chamberlain. Great review - thanks - I'll have to look for this one! -- Judie, 02:13:47 02/20/04 Fri

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[> Bandruidh, I read this a couple months ago. It was very well written, but you're right -- you can't go into it thinking about The Thorn Birds. You're also right that it's hard to warm up to some of the main characters at first (actually I don't think I ever really warmed up to Elizabeth), but I commend the author for not falling into the trap of creating cookie-cutter characters. Excellent review - you really captured the essence of the book. -- GinC, 11:56:37 02/23/04 Mon

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