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The Touch: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Colleen McCullough
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Not since The Thorn Birds has Colleen McCullough written a novel of such broad appeal about a family and the Australian experience as The Touch.
At its center is Alexander Kinross, remembered as a young man in his native Scotland only as a shiftless boilermaker's apprentice and a godless rebel. But when, years later, he writes from Australia to summon his bride, his Scottish relatives quickly realize that he has made a fortune in the gold fields and is now a man to be reckoned with.
Arriving in Sydney after a difficult voyage, the sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Drummond meets her husband-to-be and discovers to her dismay that he frightens and repels her. Offered no choice, she marries him and is whisked at once across a wild, uninhabited countryside to Alexander's own town, named Kinross after himself. In the crags above it lies the world's richest gold mine.
Isolated in Alexander's great house, with no company save Chinese servants, Elizabeth finds that the intimacies of marriage do not prompt her husband to enlighten her about his past life -- or even his present one. She has no idea that he still has a mistress, the sensual, tough, outspoken Ruby Costevan, whom Alexander has established in his town, nor that he has also made Ruby a partner in his company, rapidly expanding its interests far beyond gold. Ruby has a son, Lee, whose father is the head of the beleaguered Chinese community; the boy becomes dear to Alexander, who fosters his education as a gentleman.
Captured by the very different natures of Elizabeth and Ruby, Alexander resolves to have both of them. Why should he not? He has the fabled "Midas Touch" -- a combination of curiosity, boldness and intelligence that he applies to every situation, and which fails him only when it comes to these two women.
Although Ruby loves Alexander desperately, Elizabeth does not. Elizabeth bears him two daughters: the brilliant Nell, so much like her father; and the beautiful, haunting Anna, who is to present her father with a torment out of which for once he cannot buy his way. Thwarted in his desire for a son, Alexander turns to Ruby's boy as a possible heir to his empire, unaware that by keeping Lee with him, he is courting disaster.
The stories of the lives of Alexander, Elizabeth and Ruby are intermingled with those of a rich cast of characters, and, after many twists and turns, come to a stunning and shocking climax. Like The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough's new novel is at once a love story and a family saga, replete with tragedy, pathos, history and passion. As few other novelists can, she conveys a sense of place: the desperate need of her characters, men and women, rootless in a strange land, to create new beginnings.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After last year's The October Horse, the final installment in her series set in ancient Rome, McCullough returns to her native Australia to chronicle the adventures of Scotsman Alex Kinross, a headstrong and handsome former boilermaker's apprentice in Glasgow, now rich and the founder of an eponymous town in New South Wales. It is the late 19th century, and Alex, who has settled in Australia after finding gold both in America and Down Under, can find no suitable bride, so he sends to Scotland for one. Elizabeth, the backward 16-year-old beauty he marries, takes an instant dislike to him: he's no paragon of sensitivity; he bears an unfortunate resemblance to Satan; and neither his brilliance, his money or his influence can persuade her to love him. Elizabeth bears him two daughters-she almost dies giving birth to the second-and forges a deep friendship with the redoubtable Ruby Costevan, a former madam and Alex's longtime mistress. But poor Elizabeth just can't be happy, until she meets Ruby's half-Chinese son, Lee. Lee returns Elizabeth's regard tenfold, but because he's as upstanding as he is beautiful, he makes himself scarce to avoid upsetting Elizabeth or Alex, whom he loves. When he can bear it no longer, Lee decides Alexander must be told-but at what price? Frontier speculation, domestic strife, industrialization, a terrible rape and a brutal murder: all these mold and buffet the Kinross clan until a final, tragic act of generosity promises to end the pain. Though they are frequently at the mercy of the novel's complex plot, McCullough's characters win sympathy with their spirited striving for love and honor.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Ever-popular McCullough returns to her beloved Australia in this tale of intrepid pioneers looking for riches and gold during the second half of the nineteenth century. Alexander Kinross left Scotland when he was 15, goaded by the ill treatment doled out by his family and the minister. He goes to America and makes a fortune, then brings his rare gift for sensing where gold will be found to Australia and demonstrates good business sense by keeping what he mines. He goes into partnership with a Chinese immigrant and the owner of a brothel, creates a mining town called Kinross, and, now in his mid-thirties, writes to Scotland asking for a cousin to marry. Elizabeth Drummond, 16, who has never left her small town, is now forced by her strict father to travel to Australia and marry a man she has never heard of. The tale of this determined and wealthy entrepreneur and his marriage, family, love affairs, friendships, and all the dynamics of his town coalesces into a fantastic and exceptional saga about the lively personalities and explosive situations that shaped Australia. Patty Engelmann
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 763 KB
  • Print Length: 624 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0684853302
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Pocket Star Books Pbk. Ed edition (November 25, 2003)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC0VRA
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,881 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dang Good Read November 30, 2003
Ignore the silly cover and you will find a well-written, enjoyable historical romance by someone who knows how to do this kind of thing very well. Actually, "The Touch" is not quite a romance (I seem to have been influenced by the yearning profile on the cover as well) but something more interesting. Read on.
Rich goldminer and entrepreneur Alexander Kinross writes to a Scottish relative for a bride. He gets Elizabeth Drummond, who at 16 has lived a joyless life. Alexander is handsome and charismatic, but contrary to what might be expected, she is repelled by him. He's sorry she doesn't like him, but since he has a very satisfactory mistress all he expects of Elizabeth is that she do her duty. Although she lives in a grand house opulently furnished, Elizabeth's life in Australia is as repressed as her life in Scotland was. That is, until she meets Ruby, her husband's mistress.
Ruby and Alexander love each other deeply, but the fact that she runs a suspect hotel and has a son by a Chinese businessman means no wedding bells for them. Next to Alexander, Ruby is the town's most influential citizen (with her Chinese ex-lover a close third), so it is certain that Elizabeth and Ruby will meet. They do, and like each other immediately.
This fine how-do-you-do is the crux of an entertaining story that will have you looking forward to the next chapter. Set between 1872 and 1900, this booming period of Australian history provides a lively background for the appealing characters' surprising but believable lives. It is a pleasure to see Colleen McCullough back at the sort of fiction which flows from her pen so easily as to seem almost organic. Unlike her Roman series where historical detail began to smother characterization and action, `The Touch" is bound to please from first page to last.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It lacks passion January 14, 2004
I read Colleen McCullough's THE THORN BIRDS long before it was a mini-series and thought it was a masterpiece. I haven't changed my mind because McCullough's novel about the universal human condition strikes a chord in most people. The passionate story, spanning three generations, describes the complex Clery family on a sheep ranch in Australia. One of the most memorable parts of the book is the forbidden love of Meggie and Ralph de Briscassart, a priest. McCullough is still a very good author, but THE TOUCH is a notch down from her other works. It simply lacks passion.
In the latter novel Andrew Kinross, after leaving his native Scotland as a youth, made a fortune in Australia in the late 1800s. Years later he wrote to a relative to send for his 16 year-old cousin, Elizabeth, to be his bride. After an arduous journey from Scotland, she arrived in Sydney. Upon seeing Andrew for the first time, she experienced revulsion, a feeling which remained throughout their long, loveless marriage.
At times glimpses of the old McCullough surface, especially when she graphically describes Jade's, the nursemaid, revenge for Anna's murder.
Most of the characters are not outstanding. Of them all, tough-talking, generous, Ruby, stands out. She serves in the unlikely position of Andrew's mistress and Elizabeth's best friend. Also the off-spring of the main characters fail to shine in any particular way.
If you want to be entertained rather than stirred, choose THE TOUCH.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a pleasure December 20, 2003
I was so excited to hear of this book as I am an enormous fan of Colleen McCullough's Australian epics ("The Thorn Birds", "Morgan's Run") and other non-Caesarean works (although I like historical fiction in general I could just never get excited about the Caesar series). On the rare occasions that McCullough publishes a non-Caesarean book it is very much a book "event" for me. As expected, I really enjoyed this. McCullough continues her tradition of impeccable historical research and gifted storytelling plus the plot is great and well-thought out. Basically the story is about the various rather complicated relationships between a group of highly likable characters that you can really care about, all taking place at a very interesting time in history (late 19th century). I personally don't want to give anymore than that away in case, like me, you don't want to know exactly what to expect as you read (for instance, I usually don't read flyleafs). However, I believe the reviewer immediately below me did a great job of laying it out in a bit more detail if you're interested in knowing more about the plot before you buy the book.
Although this isn't my favorite of her books (I like "The Thorn Birds" and "Morgan's Run" better), I still feel this book stands head and shoulders above the majority of the historical epics out there (well, I also adore "Gone with the Wind" and "Through a Glass Darkly"). So if you enjoyed her previous books, Caesar related or not, or any of the other books I've mentioned, I think you will definitely like this as well.
Of course, if you haven't ever read "The Thorn Birds" or "Morgan's Run" you may want to pick one or both of those up first - they're really fantastic.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Touch February 4, 2005
Alexander Kinross is a proud Scot who, with his vast store of intelligence, leaves his home at age fifteen, travels around the world, and eventually arrives at the new continent of Australia (New South Wales) and founds a gold-mining town. He makes fortunes, but in order to secure his position in the world, he sends for a young Scottish bride, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Drummond. Elizabeth was raised in a devout Protestant village where she lived shielded from the outside world, so the move from Scotland to Australia is a tremendous eye-opener, both physically and mentally, for the young girl. From the start, Elizabeth takes a disliking to Alexander, but she performs her duties as a wife. No matter how hard Alexander tries to please his young wife, she is unresponsive, so he turns to his mistress, the seductive Ruby Costevan, for sexual comfort. The Kinrosses live in a grand mansion in the town of Kinross, but Elizabeth is not pleased by the material things that Alexander supplies her. Rather, she seeks someone that she can truly love. "How can I look into those diabolical eyes and tell their owner that he is not the husband I would choose?"

The book continues with daily life and hardships, including the birth of Eleanor (Nell) who is eerily similar to Alexander and poor Anna whose short life is, it itself, a great tragedy. The book poignantly covers a span of about thirty years, chronicling the hopes, the joys, and the misfortunes of the Kinrosses and the people surrounding them. The main characters come alive with rich descriptions and frequent dialogue.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Touch
A fantastic read!!!! The characters are so alive, and they seem like real friends that you will truly miss when the book is finished.
Published 22 days ago by Debra Anderson
3.0 out of 5 stars but she is still a great writer!
Not a powerful and her full blown sagas, but she is still a great writer!
Published 27 days ago by Lea
2.0 out of 5 stars Characters are not believable and the story line is thin ...
Characters are not believable and the story line is thin. Also, this is a book with little subtlety. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marilyn Doss
4.0 out of 5 stars I would have liked a better relationship between Alexander and...
The book was entertaining. The beginning drew me in and it was difficult to put it down. I would have liked a better relationship between Alexander and Elizabeth.
Published 1 month ago by Cheryl Carboine
5.0 out of 5 stars the touch
Fantastic-Colleen mcculloch at her best. I did not want to put it down. I wished for it to go on and on!
Published 1 month ago by Karen A. Hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!
Loved it.. Really engrossing characters. McCullough never fails to deliver. Would highly recommend it, especially if you like longer books because you don't want it to end.
Published 1 month ago by Cynthia L Olds
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love all her books
Published 1 month ago by Anne
4.0 out of 5 stars Great
Excellent well written Australian good story line interesting characters
Published 3 months ago by Vaughan
4.0 out of 5 stars Australia
Australia never seems more real than when reading a Colleen McCullough novel. Once knowing the characters you identify with each one. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sherri Padron
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Colleen McCullough's writing never ceases to please and keep me engaged to the very end.
Published 3 months ago by Sheri Schneider
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More About the Author

Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neuropathologist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. Her writing career began with the publication of Tim, followed by The Thorn Birds, a record-breaking international bestseller. She lives on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific with her husband, Ric Robinson.

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