No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, April 24, 2006

#37: The Tourmaline -- Paul Park

The Tourmaline follows A Princess of Roumania (reviewed for Vector here), and will make no sense to anyone who hasn't read the previous instalment. Even those who have read Princess may flounder: this is the second half of a book intended as a single volume, split at what initially seems an awkward point. The end of Princess has great dramatic impact, but the logical division seems to be about 100 pages into The Tourmaline.

I'll be reviewing this for Vector, too, so I'll restrict myself to subjective reactions here. Things I won't necessarily say in a formal review, such as the irritation I feel when Park tells us that a character speaks for a long time, but doesn't tell us what he said. Ten out of ten for obfuscation and po-mo narrative devices: nil points for seamlessness. Or the indulgent thrill I feel when Park layers his cosmologies: not only is this a pre-Copernican universe with the Earth at its centre (or so I deduce from the first volume) but those aren't planets, whirling 'round the alternate Earth. (Or perhaps they are. Trust no one in this novel.)

Park's prose still has that crystalline quality, but now I'm thinking of distorting lenses and ghost images. I like his scientific magic, with its discredited key texts. I like his villainess. I revel in not especially liking Miranda, or Peter. I guessed the twist on the penultimate page. I'm looking forward to Andromeda, Abyssinia, the false son and the true. I can't begin to imagine how Park will tie up the story, or how many more books are to come.

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