This book was well received by the group, being given a score of 8/10.
All agreed that the author created a strong story line with interesting characters that were mostly believable. The main story revolves around a newly married couple who emigrate to the sparsely populated South Island of New Zealand from rural England in the middle 1800’s.
Both husband and wife are escaping from their former life - Joseph from a failed romance, Harriet from a job as a governess. Joseph’s mother, Lillian, newly widowed, travels with them.
The plan is to take advantage of the cheap land and start a small farm and steadily expand it, and this involves building a small primitive house. Initially, Joseph appears the strong character, but underneath he feels that he can never impress his mother and is haunted by memories of an earlier romance. Harriet steadily gains confidence and is awed by the grandeur of the surrounding scenery. However, the mother is at odds with the move and her new reduced circumstances.
We follow the three of them as Joseph and Harriet steadily grow apart and the two women start to understand each other. Slowly additional characters are entered in, at first just the well established “neighbours”, a hair-raising journey away. This family offer useful advice on adapting to the New Zealand climate and countryside and Harriet becomes very close to them, especially their son, Edwin.
While digging in a stream bed on the farm Joseph comes across small grains of gold and gets the “gold fever”. Then two men pass through the farm on the way to a new gold rush, and Joseph decides to leave Harriet, Lillian and the farm and seek his fortune.
Shortly after Joseph leaves, Lillian dies and Harriet goes to the goldfield to look for him. Here we get introduced to a rich mix of characters in the goldfields and the conditions of the diggers. The novel comes to an unexpected, but not unsatisfactory end. The sceptic might say the author is leaving things open for a sequel.
An enjoyable read!!
John Scutt November 2017