The Colour by Rose Tremain


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!

The Luminaries – BBC 1


I was really looking forward to some Sunday night period drama, but I’m not getting on very well with this.  For a kick off, it keeps jumping backwards and forwards in time.  It wasn’t made clear initially that this was what was happening, so it was very confusing.  And our heroine’s got amnesia, so she’s as confused as the viewers are.  It’s supposed to be set in the New Zealand gold fields in the 1860s, but only one person seems to be looking for gold, although someone’s got a load of fake gold in his shop window. There’s supposed to be a lot of intrigue, but the only thing I really want to know is where the fortune-telling brothel madam’s husband, who gets murdered, is meant to be from.  His accent keeps changing from Manchester to Sheffield and back again, and it’s been round a few other places as well.  And why is everything, other than Eva Green’s hair, so dark?

The first few minutes were OK.  Anna (Bono’s daughter) met Emery (Tamwar from EastEnders) on a ship going to New Zealand, and it looked like it was going to be a romance amid everyone trying to make their fortune.  But then all the jumping around started, and it was very hard to tell what was going on.  I’ve now gathered that we’re going backwards and forwards in time, but it’s difficult to follow when we’ve just changed time again.  Anna somehow ended up in the house of a brothel owner/fortune teller, played by Eva Green, and the woman’s husband, the one with the changing accent.  And, at some point, the husband was murdered, and it may or may not have been Anna whodunnit.

Meanwhile, Emery doesn’t seem to have done much other than go fishing.  And the lighting is appalling.  Yes, I know that the lighting at the time would have been appalling, but it doesn’t make for very good viewing.  Everyone complained about this with both Wolf Hall and Jamaica Inn; but the BBC just keep doing it.

I’m not getting this at all.  Maybe it’ll improve  …


Anzac Girls – More 4


Word Press

This was a mixture of very good and not so good. Based on the experiences of real individuals, it tells the story of a group of young women from Australia and New Zealand who travelled across the world to Egypt to nurse those wounded in what turned out to be the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

First World War dramas tend to focus on the Western front – I have to confess that I wasn’t even aware that there were nurses based in Egypt – so this, made by an Australian broadcaster, is really something different. It’s unlikely that any of these women had ever travelled very far from their homes before, and then there they were, on the other side of the world in a country with a completely different culture to anything they were used to – facing the horrors of war.

And the programme tries hard to trace the relationship between the Gallipoli campaign and the growth of national feeling in Australia and New Zealand.   One soldier spoke of how this was their opportunity to break out of Britain’s shadow and make a name for themselves. The nurse to whom he was speaking pointed out that it was a war, not a cricket match – but the point was made, and it’s a point which has been made many times in recent weeks, as the centenary of the Gallipoli Landings has been marked.

On the other hand, was there really any need to show quite so many scenes of nurses flirting with soldiers and talking about the fun they were going to have whilst they were there?! All right, point taken, but most of them seemed far more interested in chasing after men than in anything else, and the soldiers seemed to have a remarkable amount of time to spend chasing after the nurses! One nurse even wandered into an Army camp for a bit of “fun” with a soldier (although it did later turn out that he was her husband) in one of the Army tents! No-one seemed to notice – which was particularly odd as they evidently all had amazingly strongly-developed senses, being able to hear and see the fighting near the Suez Canal all the way from Cairo and Alexandria!   And, whilst referring to the Ottoman Empire as “Turkey” can be forgiven, as it was something plenty of people did at the time, having a British doctor say that he came from “Cumbria”, an artificial county which wasn’t created until 1974, cannot!

Still, the good bits outweighed the bad, and I’ll be watching the rest of the series with interest.