Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Colour by Rose Tremain

"She was a woman who longed for the unfamiliar and strange. As a child, she'd seen it waiting for her, in dreams or in the colossal darkness of the sky: some wild world which lay outside the realm of everything she knew."

Recently, I signed up to a summer reading challenge being organised through my local library service.

To tie in with the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the challenge is to read 6 books from different continents with the aim of expanding our reading experiences and broadening our horizons.

I must say, that I am almost at the end of this reading journey and I have found it thoroughly fascinating. Some of the books chosen, I have loved and some not so much, but that is the beauty of exercises such as this. They push you out of your comfort zone.

As part of the challenge, I chose to read The Colour by Rose Tremain, published in 2003.

 Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate to New Zealand in the 1860's, along with Joseph's mother Lilian.
Joseph and Harriet have not been married long and it becomes clear very early on in the book that theirs is a marriage of convenience. Both have made the decision to marry and move half way across the world to escape things from their lives back in England.

On their arrival in New Zealand, Joseph leaves the women in Christchurch and heads to a place near the Okuku river to build them a house.
When he has finished, the women join him and experience the full force of a winter in New Zealand. Cracks begin to appear in the marriage and these are worsened when Joseph discovers a small amount of gold- 'the colour'-in the river.

From this point on, the mood of the story begins to change as Joseph, Harriet and Lilian are affected in different ways by this unexpected discovery.

"He had lost count of the hours he'd toiled , the slabs he'd fixed, the load after load after load of dirt washed in his cradle."

I chose to read this book because I was intrigued by the subject of gold prospecting in New Zealand as I had previously linked it to the United States. I was also keen to have a look at one of Ms Tremain's books as she has been on my TBR list for some time.

Ms Tremain's style of writing is very readable and her characters interesting, complex and thought provoking. I particularly loved Harriet as I found her to be gutsy and determined and always looking for adventure. In contrast, I disliked Joseph intensely, with his tendency towards secrecy and his total lack of understanding of the needs of his wife.

The story took a little while to get going but once it did I became totally immersed in it and was rooting for Harriet all the way.There were one or two surprising twists to the story, none of which I had anticipated.
The Colour is a thoroughly enjoyable read and although I wouldn't add it to my top 50 books of all time, I would definitely recommend it.

I give this a rating of 8/10

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