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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly written
This book spoke to me as a man of 72 years and as one who watched my sister suffer from much of what the central character Joan experiences. It is astonishing to see such a young writer express so many of the realities of the experience of dementia and its effects on a family, and I am delighted to have just been sent this highly moving book from a young friend. There...
Published on 21 May 2008 by E Spicer

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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overworked and over complex
I couldn't help feeling the author of this book was trying too hard. He has dug up some perfectly good historical and thematic material (the Boer War and care of elderly relatives, to put it simply); but spoils them with an over-complicated narrative that jumps all over the place geographically and in time. It's as if he's afraid that without all the layers of artifice,...
Published on 10 Jun 2008 by Patrick


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegantly written, 21 May 2008
This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Hardcover)
This book spoke to me as a man of 72 years and as one who watched my sister suffer from much of what the central character Joan experiences. It is astonishing to see such a young writer express so many of the realities of the experience of dementia and its effects on a family, and I am delighted to have just been sent this highly moving book from a young friend. There is so much: the Boer War, hectic `hedge' funds, and even a haunted house. The plot occurs between Joan and her daughter Eloise, who needs her independence and feels guilty for having to admit her mother to a care-home. So Eloise finds her the most stately care home of all in London, an insensitively converted Victorian mansion, and takes her on a root-tracing trip to South Africa.

Perhaps the most moving chapters of the book are devoted to a journal written by Joan's grandmother about her family's experience in a British concentration camp during the Boer War. The author has a remarkable way of tying this back in later in the book, making the inhumanity of war a significant undercurrent throughout the story. He also surprises us with a charming friendship Joan develops with a teenaged boy that leads to a beautifully tragic excavation of the care home's history. As Eloise undergoes an unthinkable catastrophe with her hedge fund, Joan's mind takes her into 'lighted rooms' that allow her to rectify the wrongs of the family for whom the house was built and those of her own past.

I speak as an old man but recommend it highly to people of all ages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Audacious? Hell yeah!, 28 Jun 2009
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This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Paperback)
A previous reviewer thought that The Lighted Rooms was spoiled by being over-complicated... I think that the complexity is what makes it so fabulous. This is a simply extraordinary Gothic / comic / time-travel / ghostly child abuse / quantum science / hedge-fund / musical EXPLOSION of a novel! There really and truly can be nothing like it out there. Mason keeps all this crazy material under perfect control, and gives us romance and comedy too. The South African section is beautifully done, but it's the weaving together of so many strands of research and imagination that makes this an utterly original read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "To be old and sad seems a not unreasonable condition for the last stage of human development.", 6 Mar 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Hardcover)
The title comes from a Philip Larkin poem:

"Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting."

And this is a fair description of what happens to Joan as she grows old and her daughter Eloise takes painstaking care to find the right old persons' home in which she can be confident that her mother will be happy. The Albany is dreadfully expensive but the rooms are spacious and well decorated. Joan, however, is not happy.

Eloise is a commodities dealer. It seems she could have married her French lover, Claude, a long time ago but it fell through when she had an abortion. Nevertheless and though it seems a little unrealistic, they have remained quite close, even if often being in different countries. Eloise works with Patrick and Carol, who are partners in the Company, and on Eloise's recommendation they buy heavily in a product called osmium which Claude is working with, trying to produce an amalgam based on a fusion of osmium with others to produce a new super-hard element.

Meanwhile things are not going right for Joan, who is having disturbing hallucinations of her grandmother, who was an inmate during the Boer War, of the world's first Concentration Camp. For Joan, the past takes over. She learns through local library archives that her distant relatives may have been the victims of assault or even of experiments. Joan's dead husband Frank also appears and merges with a man whom she suspects of mistreating inmates. The terrifying nature of what Joan experiences is quite skilfully rendered, but these are hallucinations of course. Or are they the products of the medicine Joan is being given (quite unnecessarily it seems)?

I really could not stop reading this book once started and though it is a fairly hefty 390pp. I found it compulsive and was equally moved by both Joan's delusions and her daughter Eloise's reunion with her lover and the uncertain future of trading on the stock exchange. The novel has improbabilities - a sixteen-year old boy who is interested in helping an old lady discover her past is one. All the same, it's an engrossing read with a strong historical backdrop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book, 31 Oct 2011
By 
R. J. Wheelton (North Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Paperback)
I haven't quite finished this book yet by Richard Mason. I read his first book,The Drowning People, which was gripping from beginning to end. This book is quite different but equally gripping. I will now be looking for any more that he's written.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and beautiful novel, 4 Jan 2011
By 
Sara Boltman (Cricklade) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Paperback)
There are so many big themes in this book - what happens to your mind as you grow older, the Boer war and modern day 'terror' prisoners, how relationships within families can affect each other. I particularly related to the way the love between Joan's mother-in-law and daughter affected Joan - left out in the middle, doting on her son instead. I was astounded that a young, male writer could have understood this and communicated it so poignantly, but then I read about the years of research that went into this and the friendships formed with care home residents in the process and I realised just how much emotional effort it must have taken to write this book. It is surreal at times - in a good way! Though I can't say I'm looking forward to getting old myself, abandoning myself to my own imagination sounds a lot better than 'losing my marbles'.
For me, the book falls down near the end. It made me wonder whether the publishers hurried him along to finish it because it is so abrupt and unsatisfying - that's my main reason for deducting a star because apart from that I realy enjoyed it and will recommend it for my book club as there is so much to discuss.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms / Inside your head, and people in them, acting, 4 Nov 2008
By 
purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Hardcover)
'Number 17 Kingsley Gardens presided over a leafy street on the south side of the river, protected from the traffic of Wandsworth Bridge Road by its own substantial grounds and a low-rise 1950s development of flats and shops.'

The novel starts with Joan and her daughter Eloise visiting a care home which Eloise has determined will becomes Joan's home. Mason is good on their relationship and its shifts throughout the course of the novel and that is its centre - the South African material enriches as do the zeitgeist themes of the elderly and betting the hedge fund - but it's the contrast between mother and daughter which makes the novel successful.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mason's finest work to date, 5 July 2008
This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Hardcover)
Having just finished reading The Lighted Rooms I feel the need to extol the virtues of this haunting new book from Richard Mason who is clearly becoming a mastercraftsman of novel writing. In the book Mason brings together unlikely and often discomforting strands of story and weaves them intricately and expertly to create a mesmerizing web. It is clear through the book that the author has a passionate interest in what he is writing about, from South Africa's past and present, to the care of elderly people in the 21st Century and this has enabled him to bring a delicate touch to plot details which are often both shocking and disturbing.
One particular triumph of The Lighted Rooms is the way in which the author examines how society has continued to accept the violation of humanity on the grounds of gender, sexuality, race and in the case of the character Joan, on the grounds of age. This is not a depressing book though because we are also reminded that relationships, music and literature all contribute to our higher sense of being and most importantly give us hope. I look forward to the author's next novel.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overworked and over complex, 10 Jun 2008
This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Hardcover)
I couldn't help feeling the author of this book was trying too hard. He has dug up some perfectly good historical and thematic material (the Boer War and care of elderly relatives, to put it simply); but spoils them with an over-complicated narrative that jumps all over the place geographically and in time. It's as if he's afraid that without all the layers of artifice, his idea and his vision will be revealed as inadequate.
Perhaps for the same reason, Mason also draws most of his characters much larger than life. But this does not make them compelling; rather it makes them seem artificial and therefore uninteresting. His best characters are actually the ones outside the lime-light, ones on whom he does not spend too much time.
This is not a dreadful book by any means. There are a good number of very readable passages, but Mason does not seem to know the virtue of economy, let alone simplicity, and the result is a novel that is about 100 pages longer than it should have been, and a lot less enjoyable.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old age .... bring it on!, 16 May 2008
This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Hardcover)
I normally don't take the time to write a review, but this was such an amazing book to read that I feel compelled to share my enjoyment. Richard Mason gives us a perceptive and poignant account of the emotions and drives that are really at work within families. I was touched by the way the story unfolds when Joan has to deal with her dwindling grasp on reality; if this is old age then bring it on! I was addicted right to the very last full stop and I genuinely did not want it to end. It is one of the few novels over the years that I will definitely read again.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and unsettling., 17 Aug 2008
By 
David Winsor "voracious reader" (Kimberley, Notts.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lighted Rooms (Hardcover)
After a Summer of misfires in terms of choosing the right book ( An Insular Possession by Timothy Mo and Out by Natsuo Kirino - stay away from both!) I devoured this classic inside 3 days. Mason writes beautifully-cutting between characters and times in an easy and instructive way and the psychological insights are acute and, for me, unnervingly prescient. An ambitious novel about memory, atonement, guilt, filial relationships and - above all else - growing old. Such is Mason's empathy with the increasingly troubled mind of Joan that one wonders where he will go next.
Highly recommended - a novel that sustains its impact right up to the end . No easy or comfortable resolutions here. A profoundly satisfying , grown up read with a powerfully political epilogue.
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The Lighted Rooms
The Lighted Rooms by Richard Mason (Paperback - 21 May 2009)
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