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Friday, May 10, 2013


The Colour

I had read about the gold rush in California but the gold rush in New Zealand was a new story for me.    The reference to "colour" was also to gold which was also new to me. 

We have the story of emigration and the tough life faced by all immigrants whether this took place in the 19th century or in present times. All immigrants face a period of settling in and in the rough, underpopulated areas of remote New Zealand, life was even tougher than usual. Harriet being one woman and a respectably, married one at that sets her apart from the floozies and boarding house mistresses who are the only women around. 

The story is also of a marriage and its ultimate breakdown with glimpses into how people of two different temperaments who are not willing to communicate and who are really not willing to be totally free with each other, can lead to a total breakdown of the relationship. 

The story is built up slowly - almost block by block. We have Harriet and Joseph and his mother Lilian coming to New Zealand with great hopes on the part of Harriet and Joseph but with a secret desire not to be part of her son's schemes on the part of Lilian who longs for the respectability and routine of what she knows. How Joseph is ensnared by the magnetic pull of gold and how he is constantly reminded of the crime he committed which forced him to leave England and Harriet in her turn thought that marriage was the only way to escape her being a permanent governess and that she looked forward to her marriage as a new beginning in her life. The failure of the marriage and the awareness of the failure by both Joseph and Harriet who kept their minds secret  from each other are all part of this story.

Add to this a bit of homosexuality,  Maori folk lore, descriptive countryside both bleak and luxuriant (depending on the weather!) and a good storyline and you have a very readable book. 


  1. I've read very few books set in New Zealand and non I think that are historically relevant. Ill have to keep an eye out for this one.

  2. I've been looking forward to your review of this, glad you liked it!

  3. I've never read Rose Tremain and always meant to, and I enjoy books about New Zealand, so this might be a must-do for me!

  4. Hi Mystica,

    Although Rose Tremain is a home-grown British author, I have never actually read any of her books.

    This one was particularly interesting, as it sounded as though Joseph had been sent to New Zealand for his crime and I have no recollection of us ever transporting people to that particular country.

    Research all points to the fact that New Zealand was generally considered a safe haven and a new start for felons, who had either served their penal time in Australia and did not want or could not afford to come home, or for those convicts who actually escaped from Australian shores.

    Nothing for us Brits to be proud of, no matter the detail!

    I am now, more than ever, intrigued enough to want to read the book, which you obviously quite enjoyed. So thanks for the excellent review and recommendation.


  5. Hi Mystica, given that I am based in NZ it would be just great if you linked this review in to the current Books You Loved over at Carole's Chatter. Hope to see you soon

  6. This one sits on my shelf unread, along with a few others of Tremain's books that I haven't read yet. Your cover is much prettier as well.

  7. I like the sound of this one, I've read a little on the Australian gold rush but not NZ. Thanks Mystica, I'll keep an eye out for it.