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Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Colour (2003) by Rose Tremain

Image result for otira gorge road
The Otira Gorge road in New Zealand, location of some of the events of The Colour (before the road was built.)
Book Review
The Colour (2003)
by Rose Tremain

  I love a work of historical fiction set in 19th century New Zealand.  19th century New Zealand was recently in literary headlines when The Luminaries, which shares locations with The Colour, won the Booker Prize in 2013 for it's 28 year old author, Elanor Catton.   Specifically, the interesting event in 19th century New Zealand history is the gold rush, or Otago Gold Rush, which happened between 1861 and 1864.  Both books also share similar elements drawn from the true-life melange of 19th century Gold Rush culture: English immigrants, Chinese immigrants, Maori and even a young catamite for good measure!

   Tremain crams an impressive number of different perspectives into the 360 pages of The Colour.   The events and outlook are almost unremittingly dark, though the conclusion lacks the cringe inducing behavior that peppers the rest of the book.  Some of her characters are better drawn than others.   The sub plot involving the Maori nanny of one of the settler children feels tacked on in the interest of political correctness, and ultimately, I think it's the setting that merited the inclusion into the first 1001 Books list.  Surely it would be replaced by Booker winner The Luminaries if you were to make a list through 2013. 

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