Book Review: The Colour by Rose Tremain

colour

 

Category: A Book Set in the Country Where you Live

Newlyweds Joseph and Harriet Blackstone, along with Joseph’s mother Lilian, emigrate from England to New Zealand. Determined to make a name for himself outside of his late Father’s shadow, Joseph makes a string of poor choices that leave him and his family unprepared for the harsh realities of life in the wilderness of New Zealand.
His fortune, however, may be about to change after he finds gold dust in the creek bed on his land. Consumed by greed and his need to be successful, Joseph sets off towards Hokitika in search of The Colour.

I enjoy historical fiction, especially those set in the Victorian times. The Colour was recommended to me by a colleague who said it was beautifully written; which it is. New Zealand is described in vivid detail, the scenery, the bush, the mountains and oceans coming alive off the page. It was easy to imagine Tremain’s version of Aotearoa. However, this was where the brilliance ended for me. The storyline fell flat. I couldn’t relate to Joseph and Lilian’s motivations even though I could empathise with their situations and the poor decisions they made.

Being English herself, Tremain attempted to add Te Reo Maori into the novel, but there wasn’t enough. It didn’t flow naturally throughout the story and there were passages where the writing would have been improved with the Te Ao Maori view, especially during the second half of the book when Maori secondary character, Pare, has her own story line. The book is saved by the tenacity, bravery and determination of Harriet, who against all odds manages to survive the harsh realities of Victorian New Zealand in the winter mostly on her own.

Three/Five Stars

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