The Colour Paperback – Jul 20 2004
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Rose Tremain has long been one of the most vigorous and imaginative of novelists; her sweeping narratives (set against the most vividly realised of canvases) have made her books as dramatic and assured as anything being written today. The Colour represents a further burnishing of her considerable talents; it is a powerful drama of greed and aspiration set in the New Zealand Gold Rush of the mid-19th Century.
Tremain's protagonists are Harriet and Joseph Baxter, who (along with Joseph's mother) leave England for the promise of the new world that New Zealand represents. Needless to say, their relocation comes with many attendant (and nigh-insoluble) problems. But their struggle against the land continues apace until Joseph discovers gold in a nearby creek and ill-advisedly conceals the find from his mother and his wife. Gold fever takes an all-consuming grip upon him, and he leaves the family-owned farm to traverse the gold fields of the Southern Alps. There he will find a strange fate: one that affects those he has left behind as well as him.
As a study of human nature in extremis, this could well be Tremains most impressive book. Lacking the elegant stylishness of Restoration, The Colour grants us a fastidiously rendered picture of life lived at the sharp edge. And while her characters are confronted with terrifying decisions that few of us are ever likely to encounter, Tremains narrative gifts make it easy to identify with the decisions (both wise and catastrophic) that her characters take. The sense of period is forcefully conveyed, and while this is not as ingratiating a read as such earlier Tremain books as The Swimming Pool Season, her new level of ambition makes it perhaps the authors most important book yet. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Readers familiar with British writer Tremain's magisterial historical novel, Restoration, or her psychologically acute study of madness, Music & Silence, will not be surprised at the accuracy of historical detail in this elegant and dramatic novel about the mid-19th-century gold rush in New Zealand or by her nuanced portrait of the disintegration of a marriage. Writing at the top of her form, she tells a complex story centering on two immigrants to New Zealand, whose recent marriage represents new hopes for both of them. Joseph Blackstone fled England to rid himself of memories of a shameful act; cold and secretive, he is emotionally constricted by guilt. Strong, spirited ex-governess Harriet Salt has narrowly avoided spinsterdom; to her, New Zealand represents the freedom to explore new horizons. Together with Joseph's mother, they attempt to build a farm on the flats outside of Christchurch, but when Joseph finds gold in the creek, he becomes obsessed by "the colour," as the fabulous metal is known. Abandoning both women, he travels by ship to the west coast, where he encounters hundreds of other desperate men and the clamorous, filthy, dehumanizing conditions in which they live. Later, when Harriet attempts to follow him by land, she cannot cross the gorge between the Southern Alps, justly called "the stairway from hell." By the time she does join him, each of them despises the other, yet the discovery of gold binds them in a new way. From this point on, the narrative, already full of subtleties and surprises, becomes riveting, as nature and human nature collide. There's a wonderful subplot about the mystical connection of a white boy and his Maori nurse, and an inspired depiction of a Chinese gardener who peddles his vegetables and becomes the instrument of Harriet's salvation. With its combination of vivid historical adventure and sensual, late-blooming romance, it's hard to see how this novel can miss winning a new audience for the immensely talented Tremain.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is filled with wonderful images of the hard painstaking life of establishing a farm in the midst of the untamed New Zealand countryside. I felt sympathy for their ever-increasing struggles to remain on their farm. The descriptions of the harsh winters made me appreciate my warm apartment. One of the most interesting parts of this book dealt specifically with the gold rush. I was entranced by the descriptions of men buying mining licenses and claiming a spot of land in order to pan for gold while living in squalor - all the while clinging to the dream of striking rich and cashing in their fortunes.Read more ›
After the death of his debt-ridden father, John sells everything remaining when the debt collectors are done with it and takes his mother and new bride to the opposite side of the world for a fresh start. It is the mid-19th century and New Zealand seems as good a place as any to start a farm. But John's decisions are weirdly off-kilter, making everything even harder than it need be. Lilian plots her escape, and Harriet wonders what happened to the fleeting bliss she and her new husband knew while preparing to emigrate. Something is wrong here, something that is exacerbated by the discovery of gold-"the colour" of the title.
This is a rich and mysterious novel, a place where grueling days of sodbusting meet the cloudy mountains of a dreamtime. Rose Tremain has the ability to imbue her story with the kind of deep emotion that cannot be described and do it in a most readable fashion. The setting and the characters of "The Colour " all ring true, including the mystical ties between an English child and a Maori woman. This is an worthy addition to Rose Tremain's earlier novels, which are worth checking out if you haven't done so already. Her books are notable for their strong historical detail and unusual emotional frisson. ---Reviewed by Candace Siegle
and hopeless in love. Selfishness, greed, and other deadly sins move the character Joseph to despicable deeds--so unlike his wife, "Hal-yet" who yearns for the love of being free of the world of 19th century England. The New Zealand landscape comes alive with its aggressiveness in the winter: imagine a snow so deep, cold and ravaging that it can.....Greed has to be a character in the novel as it pushes the plot to an unbelievable ending....why wasn't he killed instead of....
What a movie this book would make!!!!
Joseph Blackstone tries to outrun a horrible, tragic secret by marrying and moving his new wife, Harriet, and his mother, Lilian, to New Zealand and starting a farm. These three traveling companions are not particularly well-matched: Lilian finds the adjustment from refined Englishwoman to farm work in a foreign country to be very difficult; Harriet is forced to realize that she does not love her new husband enough to make a success of their hard new life; and Joseph just isn't resourceful enough to adapt to the strange demands of his new situation. Mining for gold and making a quick fortune seem like an easy solution to their insurmountable problems. Other settlers have done so, and facing up to failure in the midst of others' successes adds a particularly bitter tone to Joseph's experiences.
Joseph abandons his struggling farm and makes his way to the mining fields. This decision informs the fate of all three, and leads to surprising new developments. Joseph plummets to new levels of misery and disappointment in the mines, as success continues to elude him and his dark side reasserts itself. Harriet discovers unsuspected strengths; her bravery and compassion lead to bold choices and adventures.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Set during the 1860s New Zealand Gold Rush, Tremain's elegant, passionate tale of a British emigrant couple's fresh start in the rural outback, grabs the reader from the first page... Read morePublished on July 21 2003 by Lynn Harnett
All of the characters in this book are believeable although not necessarily likeable. Harriet has a strength about her that was necessary if a woman was to survive during these... Read morePublished on July 7 2003 by Mary Reinert