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The Colour [Paperback]

Rose Tremain
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 2004

Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from Norfolk to New Zealand in search of new beginnings and prosperity. But the harsh land near Christchurch threatens to destroy them almost before they begin. When Joseph finds gold in the creek he is seized by a rapturous obsession with the voluptuous riches awaiting him deep in the earth. Abandoning his farm and family, he sets off alone for the new gold-fields over the Southern Alps, a moral wilderness where many others, under the seductive dreams of 'the colour', are violently rushing to their destinies.

By turns both moving and terrifying, The Colour is about a quest for the impossible, an attempt to mine the complexities of love and explore the sacrifices to be made in the pursuit of happiness.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; Reprint edition (April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312423101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312423100
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,595,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rose Tremain's novels have won many prizes including: the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music and Silence); the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger (Sacred Country); the Sunday Express Book of the Year, the Angel Literary Award and shortlisted for the Booker Prize (Restoration) and a Giles Cooper Award (for her radio play, Temporary Shelter). Her novel The Colour, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and selected for the Daily Mail Reading Club promotion. In June 2007 Rose was made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Rose Tremain has long been one of the most vigorous and imaginative of novelists; her sweeping narratives (set against the most vividly realised of canvases) have made her books as dramatic and assured as anything being written today. The Colour represents a further burnishing of her considerable talents; it is a powerful drama of greed and aspiration set in the New Zealand Gold Rush of the mid-19th Century.

Tremain's protagonists are Harriet and Joseph Baxter, who (along with Joseph's mother) leave England for the promise of the new world that New Zealand represents. Needless to say, their relocation comes with many attendant (and nigh-insoluble) problems. But their struggle against the land continues apace until Joseph discovers gold in a nearby creek and ill-advisedly conceals the find from his mother and his wife. Gold fever takes an all-consuming grip upon him, and he leaves the family-owned farm to traverse the gold fields of the Southern Alps. There he will find a strange fate: one that affects those he has left behind as well as him.

As a study of human nature in extremis, this could well be Tremain’s most impressive book. Lacking the elegant stylishness of Restoration, The Colour grants us a fastidiously rendered picture of life lived at the sharp edge. And while her characters are confronted with terrifying decisions that few of us are ever likely to encounter, Tremain’s narrative gifts make it easy to identify with the decisions (both wise and catastrophic) that her characters take. The sense of period is forcefully conveyed, and while this is not as ingratiating a read as such earlier Tremain books as The Swimming Pool Season, her new level of ambition makes it perhaps the author’s most important book yet. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Tremain is a magnificent storyteller with an enormous story to tell" (Independent on Sunday)

"This is a writer whose breadth of imagination and supple prose transcend the genre: she is one of the finest writers in England" (Daily Telegraph)

"Tremain has produced her own wondrous piece of gold" (Scotsman)

"A fabulous work, bravely imaginative, deeply moving, surprising, invigorating and satisfying" (Independent)

"This is a beautifully crafted book - at once a gripping adventure story and a compelling portrayal of human emotion at its bravest and its most vulnerable" (Economist) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional writing 13 Dec 2005
By Ping
Perhaps I was reading a different book to the one described my most of the Amazon reviewers here. The one I read was a lyrical, majestic tale of human frailty set against an epic backdrop of cruel mountains and with meticulously researched attention to historical detail.
The threads of the book are woven skilfully and we, as readers, are kept guessing until the end, the principal characters - each real and vulnerable - taking us along with them as they struggle to come to terms with the cold consequences of their past choices. The writing is subtle and measured: I get the feeling that the author chooses each word with great care, and her selections are invariably right, as we both explore the psyche of people living on the edge and enjoy a rollicking good tale of gold and greed and hope.
So, don't be off by adjectives such as 'brutal' and 'depressing' - this book is compelling, vivid, and most satisfying - as a professional writer myself I can only admire greatly what Rose Tremain has achieved here.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong story in a vivid historical landscape 12 Oct 2004
By A Customer
There are some harsh reviewers out there. I found this book a highly compelling read, with well-drawn characters and strong, interlinking storylines which kept me interested right to the very end. No doubt those who have been to New Zealand's South Island (particularly in winter) will find this a more satisfying book than those who have not - I am sure it helps to have some sort of mental image of both the beauty and the harshness of the landscape in which the story is set.
It has its faults. It suffers from the apparent belief among contemporary authors that, unless a book contains a strange element of magic and mysticism, the reader will lose interest. This is not so - most books which try this obvious and tired trick fall down as a result. In this book, this unnecessary flummery arises in the relationship between the Maori woman, Pare, and the English boy, Edwin. On one level, this strand of the story is a touching (and ultimately tragic) tale of childhood imagination and clashing imperial and indiginous cultures, and it would have been better left at that. The introduction of Maori spiritualism seemed to me to be somewhat forced and shallow, and wholly unnecessary.
And why, oh why, do publishers of books set in strong geographical locations NEVER include a map? I dug out my own map of New Zealand, which greatly assisted in conceptualising the action, but a one-page map in the book itself would be so easy to include and would make such a difference.
But otherwise, a thoroughly good read - a little depressing, but not without its upbeat moments.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A woman who was as tall as he..." 11 Sep 2009
Strong women may not usually capture the centre of attention in a wild west survival story - it's a men's world after all. Yet, Harriet deserves her spotlight! Set against the background of New Zealand's gold rush in the 1860s, Rose Tremain has crafted a memorable, vividly coloured historical drama, that revolves around immigrants Joseph Blackstone and his new wife, Harriet. New Zealand's spectacular landscapes and the country's havoc creating extreme weather vagaries, powerfully evoked throughout the novel, are merged as an integral part into the story and adding to its sense of drama.

The young couple, together with Joseph's mother, Lillian, embark on a farm life that none are prepared for. Tensions abound as the precariousness of their survival becomes evident, in particular during their first winter in the wilds around Christchurch. Three isolated and solitary people, each is preoccupied with attempting to overcome unresolved issues of their past life back in Norfolk, England. Joseph hides some shameful crime from his former life that comes back to haunt him with increasing intensity and is revealed to the reader in small portions. His secret is isolating him even more from his wife in particular. He becomes wary of his wife's positive attitude and growing self-confidence - "a woman as tall as he". When, by their creek, he discovers a few specks of gold, the 'colour', he is ecstatic and frantically searches for more. While no more gold is found and he manages to hide his find from his wife, his obsession can no longer be contained. He abandons the faltering farm and declares that joining the new wave of gold diggers on the other side of the country will be their financial rescue and salvation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it... 16 Jan 2009
By Amber
If you have been to New Zealand or are thinking of going, this book gives a vivid fictional account of what it might have been like to arrive on its shores 150 years ago. This is beautiful writing even if it is harsh and quite unpalatable in places. It paints such a thought provoking picture, it had me reflecting on it for weeks after I had finished it. If you are expecting a happy family saga you will be disappointed but if you enjoy reading about the human element of history, you will love it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I cannot comment I bought for my husband who loved it
Published 14 days ago by Y. J. Boreham
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
The story of a gold rush in New Zealand, and the ravages it brought to many families. Desperately dark and wonderfully told.
Published 1 month ago by Grylla S. Noab
5.0 out of 5 stars amazingly accurate descriptive story
I read this book several years ago, before we visited goldmining places like Arrowtown, Skippers and Macetown in NZ: I was overwhelmed at how accurate Rose Tremain`s description... Read more
Published 2 months ago by H. Morris
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and evocative
As someone who has recently visited the areas where The Colour is set, I found both the geographical and historical settings to be engrossing and totally authentic. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr John Ryder
5.0 out of 5 stars kept me engaged from the first page.
I had never heard of the gold rush in New Zealand and found the story spun around it fascinating. The glimpse into Maori culture was enlightening. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Salve to my soul.
3.0 out of 5 stars The Colour by Rose Tremain
Anything by Rose Tremain is a quality read, but I found her in gloomy mode for this novel. There was something depressing about the protagonist and hopeless in the tale. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sue Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars NZ gold rush story
Shows the strength of women in a crisis. Good historical detail but maybe a little too much sordid detail - realistic but not at all romantic.
Published 6 months ago by twlbailey
5.0 out of 5 stars The Colour by Rose Tremain
I only recently discovered this author and have now read three of her books, with three more waiting to be read! Read more
Published 8 months ago by womble
4.0 out of 5 stars another good book by Rose Tremain
The book was interesting and very descriptive of the terrible conditons the gold prospecters were living in. I found the book quite depressing at times but had to keep on reading.
Published 8 months ago by Miss Haversham
5.0 out of 5 stars The Colour
It introduced the subject of gold-mining in New Zealand and I found the complex characters involved very well illustrated. Read more
Published 9 months ago by shirley fennell
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