Review: Rose Tremain’s “The Colour”

by writereaderly

1864. One husband, one wife and his mother move from Norfolk, England, as “cockatoos” to set up a new life in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Husband finds “the colour” (gold) in Harriet Creek, then chases the Gold Rush to the West Coast of NZ’s South Island. Mother dies. Home is no more. Wife follows to seek husband and a Maori woman who has befriended a friend’s young son. There’s gold in them thar hills, but how does it shine in the long dark teatime of the soul?

Rose Tremain is one of my old-faithful writers: I’ve read various of her novels and the odd short-story collection, and she never fails to write tightly, originally, well. This book is no exception: solidly written, absorbing. Her heroine Harriet grows progressively taller and more honorable in the course of the novel, while her husband Joseph’s receding jaw line sinks into his neck and progressive oblivion: he is a small, pitiable man. (NB: Metaphor alert; no ailments in this blog reflect the characters’ corporeality in any way.) Tremain writes beautifully but without unnecessary adornment, and this is the best illumination for her heroine and the landscapes she traverses. Her characters are so rich and entirely lifelike, I find myself imagining friendships with Harriet and Doro.

It’s an excellent novel, read this and anything else you may come across by Tremain. I will be: Restoration is on Pile No. 3 and I’m most looking to reading it.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time & manner of reading: Two bed-nights and a bed-afternoon, quick quick, can’t put down
Where it went to: MR, for in-flight entertainment
Reminds me of: Infinitely better than that trash-fest Isabel Allende novel set in the California Gold Rush, Hija de la fortuna (Daughter of Fortune)
Who I’d recommend it to: Oh, anyone. She’s so good, why would you not read her?
Also reading: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene; Gertrude by Hermann Hesse; The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence; The Reivers by William Faulkner; Seven Poor Men of Sydney by Christina Stead; Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

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