Topaz Woman
by Christine Candland

"Stay focused and go after your dream."

This is the story of two women separated in time and space that are brought together through a gold brooch studded with tangerine-hued topaz stones. There may or may not be a mystical element to their joining—what matters is the inspiration and the power of imagination to make that inspiration reality. That is the magic the topaz represents. Cassidy Brookes is a young woman from Kansas City trying to break into a career in Hollywood in the early seventies. Spinning her wheels and getting nowhere fast, Cassie settles for low-level clerical jobs in television to pay the rent, but when she meets famous A-list movie director Jeff McConnell, he chides her for her lack of creative drive and dares her to believe in herself. She encounters a gold brooch at an antiques fair and becomes creatively enamored with the story of the previous owner, a rebellious and reform-minded young woman who died mysteriously while crusading for better living conditions for gemstone miners in Brazil. Cassidy wants to write this woman's story and see it celebrated in a Hollywood film.

The novel unfolds through an interweaving of the stories of these two womens' idealisms and creative engagement with the world around them. The author deftly contrasts this essentially feminine way of picturing the world with the hard-bitten realities of Hollywood and the social injustice and intolerance in old Brazil. Cassie succeeds in selling her screenplay to a big studio and Jeff McConnell decides to take the project on and direct it. The masculine qualities of making the movie, the need to motivate and manipulate actors, studios, settings, and other logistics contrast with Cassie's intuitive, creative approach. She wants the script to remain unchanged. Jeff understands the need to satisfy producer's demands. Cassie wants to emphasize her heroine's purity (she is playing the part). Jeff understands the need to make her human, to make the heroine vulnerable to romantic impulses.

A similar contrast between Cassie's and Jeff's attitude toward the growing romance between themselves is drawn with skill and believability by Candland. Jeff is twenty years her senior and is reluctant to make any permanent commitment. Cassie is in love and wants nothing less than a firm and total commitment from Jeff. As the story of the movie-making process unfolds, we learn of the various weaknesses and strengths of actors and writers, of the dangers of ego and the cost of compromises made in the name of completing an idealized project. The fast-moving plot reveals the alchemy of creative zeal conjoined with practical necessity in the crucible of big studio Hollywood movie making. Passions flare and desires burn with the intensity of klieg lights. Somehow a marriage of these disparate forces results. The movie is completed and the real life actors find love. Creativity is made tangible, made shiny, made hard: like a glittering topaz stone, blazing through the mists of time.

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