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The Colour by Rose Tremain

The Colour (2003)

by Rose Tremain

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8334010,829 (3.79)289
  1. 20
    The Secret River by Kate Grenville (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: More Antipodean colonial pioneers
  2. 00
    The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton by Jane Smiley (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these books focus on pioneer women, whose previous lives have done nothing to prepare them for the new difficulties and tasks which face them, and how they match up to their new life.
  3. 00
    Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Similar (literally) 'builing a new life' story on the other side of the world. Roderick Blackstone (The Colour) has a gambling "System"/debts

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"For gold is deceitful; this he was beginning to understand. It is as duplicitous as a girl. It shows itself and beckons. Within its first gleam lies the promise of more, much more, and so men go forward, cajoling the earth, breaking their backs and their hearts, but very often they are rewarded with nothing – or almost nothing: just the very little needed to keep hope and longing alive." (85)

In search of a new life, Joseph Blackstone, along with his bride, Harriet, and his widowed mother, Lilian, sails from England to New Zealand in 1864. But Blackstone is a hardheaded, callous man, and his homestead is doomed to failure. When he discovers strains of gold, “the colour,” in the creek passing through his property, he abandons both farm and family in pursuit of riches. The gold-fields, he will shortly learn, are a moral cesspool. Harriet, now alone in a strange land, must find her own way. Fearlessly (almost), she sets out on her own adventure.

In addition to the parallel stories of the Blackstones, Tremain skillfully integrates both Chinese and Maori elements into The Colour using secondary characters: Maori woman, Pare, and Chinese gardener, Pao Yi. The relationships between characters, primary and secondary, are fascinating: like gold, they are deceitful and duplicitous.

Tremain’ writing is fabulous, and I look forward to more of her work. Highly recommended. ( )
7 vote lit_chick | May 4, 2014 |
It has taken me a while to read this book, had troubl getting into it, at first. Read a few pages, put it away, picked it up again. That lasted untill I had more room in my head to be busy with Joseph's and Harriet's struggle to start a new life in New Zealand, untill their lifes crossed the ones of the people on the Orchard farm. Then the story itself got more interesting, even a bit adventurous.
At times sad, I think this is a beautifully written story about man's struggles. Greed, love, betrayal, adventure, loyalty, they all are part of the story that is told, mixed with desciptions of New Zealand's harsh climate and part of the history of gold digging there.

Really liked the book! ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Oct 15, 2013 |
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 hard times. Even her mother-in-law Lillian, who at first meeting appears to be weak and self-centered learns to adapt to the hard circumstances of their life. Joseph is a complex, distant, and distrusting man filled with a guilt that he himself does not seem to understand. The setting of New Zealand with its rugged terrain seems to almost become a character. All of the realistic and harsh aspects of this novel pulled me into the story. However, the mysterious "spiritual" world of the Maori nurse and her relationship to young Edwin seems out of place in the story. I was disappointed in this aspect of the book. The contrast between how the Maori reacted to the environment around them and how the English settlers reacted could have better developed. Overall, a really good historical fiction read ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 16, 2013 |
A rollicking but slightly long-winded story about a couple who moves to NZ in the late 19th C to start a new life. The husband Joseph becomes obsessed with finding gold, and his wife Harriet eventually follows him in his search. She is less fanatical in her quest for gold, and is more in search of a good relationship than the "colour", as gold is referred to. He is blinded by his need to strike gold and thinks that with riches, he can redeem himself for his past wrongdoings in the mother country.

What I loved about the story, was that it was local. It is partly set in Christchurch, and also mentions Okuku, and towns Kaiapoi and Rangiora. One of which I grew up in. Also towns on the West Coast that I have been to lots of times, Hokitika and Kaniere. NZers often see ourselves as being "history-less" as our symbols of history (buildings etc) are scarcely more than 150 years or so old. But this book gave interesting and personal histories of my area and the people who made it what it is now. The passages concerning the native bush, the dramatic mountain landscapes, the birdlife, the flippant and ever-changing weather conditions were all very familiar to me, and it felt good to know exactly what the author was on about.

There were some lovely passages in this work, but the story to me seemed too convoluted. It the second half of the story were the whole story, and half the characters from the first half were excised, I think this book could have packed more punch. Overall a nice read, with a captivating story. ( )
  Ireadthereforeiam | May 11, 2013 |
Joseph and Harriet Blackstone's marriage seems to be doomed before it begins. Shortly after their marriage, the 30-something couple leaves England to homestead in New Zealand. Joseph's mother, Lilian, accompanies them. Joseph builds a temporary cob house (which sounds a lot like the sod houses of the U.S. plains) to shelter them through the first winter. Before the farm is established, Joseph catches gold fever and heads off for the west coast of New Zealand's South Island to find his fortune. Joseph's absence results in some unimaginable challenges for Harriet.

New Zealand's geography and climate seem to drive the plot of the novel. That was a good thing for me, since I chose it for the New Zealand setting. I didn't find any of the human characters particularly likeable. Joseph is ruled by his passions, particularly fear, greed, and lust. Harriet might seem like a saint in comparison, but she isn't. She is more coldly calculating. Although she usually has the self-discipline to do the right thing, it's clear that she is capable of great wrong but has the will to avoid courses of action that are not in her best interest in the long run. Neither Joseph nor Harriet seem to wrestle with moral questions. While the New Zealand history was fascinating, by the time I reached the end of the book I'd had more of Joseph and Harriet than I could comfortably stand. ( )
  cbl_tn | May 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
It's an engrossing novel, an adventure story with a sensitive side; Robert Louis Stevenson with a fit of the vapours. Since Tremain's writing is celebrated for its richness, its sensuousness, it's a relief to report that the comparatively muted colours of The Colour are no obstacle to her readability. If anything, they allow it to shine even more brightly.
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Gold diggings disorganise society, induce a moral blight, divert activity from saner enterprise and encourage a disagreeable immigration of the scum of China. ~ Lyttleton Times, New Zealand

Gold has been all in all to us. ~ West Coast Times, New Zealand
For the Domino team, with all my love
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The coldest winds came from the south and the Cob House had been built in the pathway of the winds.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312423101, Paperback)

Newlyweds Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from England to New Zealand, along with Joseph's mother Lilian, in search of new beginnings and prosperity. But the harsh land near Christchurch where they settle threatens to destroy them almost before they begin. When Joseph finds gold in a creek bed, he hides the discovery from both his wife and mother, and becomes obsessed with the riches awaiting him deep in the earth. Abandoning his farm and family, he sets off alone for the new goldfields over the Southern Alps, a moral wilderness where many others, under the seductive dreams of the "colour," rush to their destinies and doom.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

'The Colour' is a sweeping saga of sacrifice and greed set during the mid-nineteenth century gold rush in New Zealand.

» see all 2 descriptions

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