This historical novel (400 pages) was published in April of 2004 by Picador. The book takes you to gold-rush-era New Zealand. Melissa read The Colour and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
The wilds of New Zealand are not a nice place for a lady to find herself in the 1860s — but, it turns out, Harriet Blackstone is no ordinary lady. When her husband gets caught up in the gold rush fever of hunting for ‘the colour,’ she finds her own well of strength she never knew she possessed.
When the story begins, newlyweds Joseph and Harriet have recently emigrated from England to New Zealand with Joseph’s mother in tow. It should be an optimistic and exciting time: new land, new opportunity. But it soon becomes clear that all three of them are fleeing from events in their past, more than they’re running toward something fresh and good. And now the three of them are stuck with each other. In a flimsy house on a windy bluff. Desperately trying to scrape a living out of the hard-packed soil.
When Joseph discovers a glimmer of gold in his creekbed, it becomes a desperate secret and a dangerous catalyst for everything that happens next.
Author Rose Tremain weaves authentic details into the story, fully immersing us in the grit and perils of the gold rush days. We meet scam artists and hustlers, good-hearted miners, tribal Māori, some settlers who are decent, and many who are not. The action travels through real-life locations on New Zealand’s South Island: Christchurch, the Southern Alps, the mining towns of towns of Kaniere and Hokitika. And against this beautiful and brutal background, Harriet’s story unfolds.
Harriet is a quiet force, intelligent, determined, blessed with deep wells of patience — until she’s not. Even in the face of overwhelming challenges, she has zero self-pity and gets on with the business at hand. Which is a necessity when a storm can blow down a house, a flood can wipe away a village, and your no-good husband has run off in pursuit of elusive bits of precious metal.
This grand adventure tale is told through lush descriptions of New Zealand’s landscapes, plenty of action, and complex characters who aren’t always likable but feel real. Some scenes are tough to read, but, ultimately, this story will transport you to a time and place that’s quite different from our own.
She felt her spirits falter. She began to think – for the first time since deciding to marry Joseph – that she should have stayed in England, sitting in her governess’s chair, with her pencils and her books, with children she was able to grow fond of, with a father who loved her. Only the sight of the distant mountains, the sheer size and beauty and mystery of them, kept her from falling into a deep melancholy. When the spring came, Harriet promised herself, she would go into the mountains – with a strong horse if she had one by then, or with the donkey, or even on foot. She would go into the mountains alone and rediscover her willingness to continue with this New Zealand adventure. — Rose Tremain
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is ©2023 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.