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The Lighted Rooms

A Washington Post Book of the Year and an ‘immensely readable magnum opus’ (New Yorker), Mason’s story of dementia, the Boer War and a hedge fund manager was published in America as Natural Elements (Knopf).

The Lighted Rooms

UK cover

The Lighted Rooms

US cover


  • ‘Two British writers make the list. Richard Mason is a gifted young novelist whose third novel, Natural Elements, is something of a tour de force, in which he not merely tells the moving story of a woman sliding into Alzheimer's but does so against the improbable but convincing background of the Boer War and sophisticated commodities trading.’ The Washington Post
  • ‘An immensely readable magnum opus.' The New Yorker
  • ‘Mason has clearly been blessed with unusual talent and a searching intelligence.... Natural Elements [called The Lighted Rooms in other parts of the world] is a mature, inventive, ambitious novel.... Mason brings a clear, inviting prose style that resists at every turn the temptation to be showy. To be as young as he is and already have three novels under his belt is impressive enough, but to have written novels as good as these is far more so.' The Washington Post
  • ‘Beautifully rendered.' New York Times Book Review
  • ‘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
  • ‘Immensely readable, with its bossy hedge fund girl and dreamy old pianist.  The Lighted Rooms ranges across then and now, finance and science, stiff-necked imperialism and burning homesteads, the Rainbow Nation and Parisian lingerie, all bound into a compelling story.’ Barbara Trapido
  • ‘This subtle, engrossing novel kept me spellbound for three days...  Beautifully written and ambitious too.’ Nicholas Coleridge
  • ‘A beautifully crafted novel, with two superbly drawn women at its heart.’ Times
  • ‘ …the subtle style that marked his debut, with hints and suggestions nestling amidst the leisurely prose, is still evident in The Lighted Rooms… a rewarding read.’ Sunday Telegraph
  • ‘Richard Mason weaves an engrossing tale of memory, ambition and shifting familial duties.’ Daily Mail
  • ‘Slipping between a Boer War concentration camp and present-day London, the book 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.’ Independent
  • 'Mason's wit and original eye and his unusual take on dementia ensures an enjoyable read.' Observer
  • 'Mason's characters are undeniably colourful - dazzlingly so... Mason's boldness is to be admired - he is clearly a young writer who is not afraid to challenge himself.’ The Scotsman
  • ‘A sweeping historical drama, mixing the political with the personal, as one family looks back at a very troubled past.’ Mirror
  • ‘Shocking, compassionate and exquisitely written.’ Woman & Home
  • 'Moving and uplifting, by a writer at the height of his powers.’ Sainsbury's Magazine, Book of the Month
  • ‘A brilliant portrait of old age.’ Tatler
  • 'Mesmerising... A beautifully crafted exploration of love, duty and friendship.’ Choice
  • ‘An epic family saga about memory loss and the tricks age plays on the mind.’ Scotland on Sunday
  • ‘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.’ Rob Schouten, Trouw
  • ‘Mason knows how to keep the reader intrigued till the very end and he is extremely skilled at the depiction of human emotions and the tortured mind of an older, disturbed woman.’ Boek Magazine
  • The Lighted Rooms often reminds the reader of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Mason, like Franzen, is an astute observer of buried tensions and the latent aggression which can also arise in loving families.’ Financieele Dagblad
  • ‘In this sizeable novel, Richard Mason beautifully and skilfully describes a family history which covers the entire twentieth century.’ GPD
  • ‘A truly gifted novelist.’ Het Parool
  • ‘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
  • ‘Richard Mason's The Lighted Rooms is a highly snsitive and original novel. Gently and empathetically, the South African born Richard Mason deals with topics such as ageing, dementia, and parent-child relationships... The Lighted Rooms transports the reader worlds both far away and less far away. It opens new perspectives. And it's a great pleasure to read.' Siegener Zeitung
  • ‘Mason cleverly changes the perspectives of the narration. The world of both mother and daughter appears logical in itself, though they are inconsistent with the other. Mason creates brilliant images of Joan's mental retreat - like the floating piano pedals which accompany the former pianist into her parallel universe.' Die Rheinpfalz
  • ‘Skilled at creating evocative atmospheres in the most elegant prose, the 30-year-old Richard Mason is thought to be one of our greatest living authors.’ La Repubblica
  • The Lighted Rooms is striking indeed because of its essential consistency, gliding forward without any imperfection in either its plot or its style. All characters are drawn with a narrative wisdom surely unknown to most authors in their thirties: Mason’s accuracy and levity ... make one even think about Henry James. Less writer than author this time, with his third novel Mason marks an important point in the course of his narrative production. His work supports our belief that any author – even if young and talent-kissed and objectively favoured by circumstances – cannot spend less than three or four years in writing a good novel. Richard Mason showed calm and patience enough to manage his own skills by putting somewhat Olympic intervals between his three novels. Doing so, he demonstrates to the reader a steady and, it seems, unrestrainable growth. Keep ready for 2012, then: the next one will be perfect.’ Il Sottoscritto
  • ‘A fascinating saga where the destinies of two households are skilfully woven together, across the Nineteenth and the Twentieth centuries, between Africa and London…  The main characters are so intensely realised that sometimes they seem to step off the page.’ Vogue
  • ‘Mason's style recalls McGrath and McEwan because of his talent for deep analysis of human feelings… Joan is suffering from senile dementia; yet Mason describes this pathology stressing its visionary and imaginative side.’ Mucchio
  • ‘The essence of this novel lies in Mason’s talent in voicing, with both realism and sensitivity, the perturbations Joan has to face while tackling the challenges of old age with serene courage…  [Mason offers] a moving insight into the frequent failures of understanding between mothers and daughters.’ L'Unione Sarda
  •  ‘[Richard Mason] last novel, in its five hundred pages, is very rich in themes, each one possibly worthy of a novel itself: the Anglo-Boer War; old age and the loss of memory and consciousness; the parent-child relationship and sibling feelings; the myth of money and success in modern society, and even more.’ L'Unità
  •  ‘[Richard Mason] keeps on smiling and writing fine literature.’ Il Secolo XIX
  • ‘Richard Mason, the 30 year old golden boy of British literature, uses all his skills to stress the generation gap between mother and daughter…  En passant, Mason explains that Eloise [the daughter] was not always so stiff… for her first meeting with her future saviour, as an au pair girl in Paris, she was horrified by the idea of the Marks & Spencer white knickers she used to wear and decided to steal her landlady’s beautiful silk underwear. Underwear, especially stolen, is always meaningful in a novel. The reader then understands that the ephemeral apparition of this silk underwear has quite unexpectedly to do with the happy ending.’ Ventiquattro
  •  ‘In a modern setting, deepened by a strong memory of past times, this novel shows us a lady whose life is ending. Her daughter takes her to South Africa where she was born: there she will look for her roots, discovering her family’s tormented past, before entering a London hospice.’ Il Messaggero Veneto
  •  ‘In this novel the lesser-known South Africa is shown…. The Lighted Rooms involves us because it tells fascinating stories: the war, the quest of past times, the lost passion for a faraway love, the afflictions of a family, even the maze of the financial markets. But most notable in Mason’s style is his talent for delving into the depths of emotions. Even when his prose sounds self-controlled, or somewhat ironical, the shifting point of view restlessly explores each character’s soul.  It is a sort of kaleidoscope where little vendettas and great outbursts, incomprehensions and complicities, everyday traps and invisible echoing spectres are to be found. And, in the middle of all of that, there are two lonely women trying to hold each other as far away as they can.' La Provincia Pavese
  •  ‘The Lighted Rooms follows The Drowning People’s intense emotion, renewing a kind of passionate alchemy, both fascinating and moving… [Mason] easily moves through history and imagination.’ L’Unione Sarda
  •  ‘In his latest novel [Mason] … returns to the places where the bloody Anglo-Boer War took place in the late Nineteenth Century. This often forgotten conflict has many points of comparison with the Iraqi War: for they both arose from the fight for basic commodities (gold then, oil now), and involved the world’s major superpower.’ Il Sole 24 Ore
  •  ‘A novel structured as a building of many storeys, with each room opening on a different historical age as well as on the hearts of the different characters. In his new work [Mason] talks about responsibility passing from parents to children…  The book is a challenge: it looks at old age and dementia in a positive light. Furthermore, it shows that the loss of clarity can even be fun.’ La Nuova Sardegna
  • ‘Mason overturns two of the Victorian edifice’s architraves: the national spirit and the sacred conception of domestic values.  This he does by linking a nearly-forgotten war to a mother/daughter relationship full of misunderstandings, of unspoken words and of a sense of guilt flowing into a sort of affective autism.’ L’Indice
  • ‘The nearly five hundred pages of [Mason’s] book are a perfectly oiled mechanism.’ La Nuova Sardegna
  • ‘Past times are [Mason’s] literary mainspring but, as the novel goes on, hints at current tragedies subtly make themselves felt.’ Famiglia Cristiana
  • ‘With this beautiful portrait of a woman, that is an historical novel at the same time, Mason tells the tale of old age and its frailty, by means of a truthfulness and a tenderness both troubling and comforting to the reader. We all should thank him.’ Amadeus

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