“He stood without moving, waiting for the sun to come out again. It returned and sparkled on the water, dazzling him. He had to close his eyes for a second, and when he opened them again, he’d forgotten the precise spot where the colour had revealed itself. Then he saw it once more, a minute patch of shining yellow dust.”
In the year 1864, Joseph Blackstone, his new wife Harriet and his mother Lillian staked a claim in southern New Zealand, in the hopes of building a farm and a new life. They faced many hardships in this new land, but none seemed harder than temptation. The day that Joseph Blackstone discovered “the colour” (aka gold) on his property was the day when a fork appeared in the road before them. That hopeful path became clouded as Blackstone gambled their lives on a fleeting chance of riches.
Rose Tremain presents a masterful story of hope, despair and self-determination in the New Zealand frontier. Her portrayal of the bride Harriet, with her longing to go out into the broader world, drew me in as a reader:
“She didn’t dismount but stayed in the saddle, looking from horizon to horizon and finding no one and nothing but herself and the horse and their shadows of clouds. A bird turned above her, against the cold blue of the sky. Harriet saw it as the majestic witness of a sudden happiness, and she knew that in the time to come she would remember it.”
When Harriet longs to run wild in this new land she has embraced, she finds that she is constricted by a marriage that is nothing like she hoped it would be. The land, the characters, the history and the marvelous story that Tremain presents makes The Colour a novel to be savored and remembered long after it is finished.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005