A English couple emigrates/escapes to New Zealand and are tested by the unforgiving environment
Joseph and Harriet attempt to farm the harsh New Zealand countryside, but their expectations are met with failure. Joseph is secretive and parsimonious and his discovery of gold (the “colour”) in their stream unhinges him further. He abandons Harriet as well as his status conscious mother to join the gold rush on the other side of the mountain.
This novel left me a little cold - key characters and key motivations are introduced late in the story. In addition, Joseph and Harriet both have drippy personalities. I really didn’t care what happened to them and since the situation for both was so bleak, the book was a somewhat of a chore to finish. Also, perhaps one too many historical details slow down the story. The sentences, however, are beautifully written and many of the scenes are spectacular, set against the spectacular natural backdrop of New Zealand. I especially liked the disintegration of the farm house. That collapse tied into the theme of shelter which was woven throughout the narrative – houses, tents, and caves.
The plot gets condescending in a politically correct way, however, as the supporting characters, saintly aboriginal Pare and saintly G-spot-knowledgeable Chinese immigrant Pao Yi, remind the European characters of their holy connection to Nature. In the end, everyone gets the fate they deserve.