I read this for a Facebook group reading challenge. It sounded interesting, but unfortunately I didn’t really get it. I think it was meant to be very symbolic and allegorical, but I could have done with a bit more actually happening. Also, there were several minor characters whose stories weren’t tied in with the main plot very well, making it seem disjointed.
In 1864, a recently-married couple called Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from England to New Zealand. Theirs is clearly a marriage of convenience rather than love. Harriet has obviously only married him because her best alternative was becoming a governess. He’s married her because he doesn’t want a love match, for reasons which are explained later on. Joseph goes off to join the Gold Rush, leaving Harriet to look after his elderly mother. He then starts paying a young man for “services rendered”. Harriet goes to look for him, to tell him that her mother’s died, and gets involved with a Chinese gardener with a foot fetish. As you do. There are also some neighbours with a sick child, and a Maori woman who used to be the child’s nanny, but the stories aren’t tied together in a coherent way.
I think the idea was that looking for gold was an allegory for lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, lookin’ for love in too many places, but the book somehow felt unsatisfactory. It’s had good reviews and was nominated for a prize, so maybe it’s just me; but, as I’ve said, I didn’t really get it. The idea was to read a book set in New Zealand. I’m sure that there are lots of great books set in New Zealand, but this isn’t one of them!