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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

'The Valley of Blood and Gold' by Tony PALMER

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

'I'm a daughter of my homeland. We're Irish. It's all we need to know.'
'This isn't Ireland, Niamh.' Kilkenny Pat cut through her words. 'It's a new country. Even the English aren't English here.'

It is 1854 and Ballarat is teeming with miners, dreamers and rebels. On the eve of the Eureka Stockade battle, Fintan Donovan is fighting private battles of his own. Torn between his Irish upbringing and his friendship with an English boy called Matthew Ward, Fintan must make a stand. Will he be dominated by the hatreds of the old world or will he find a new way to live in the new country?

Fintan is the young Irish protagonist of Tony Palmer’s new Australian novel. Set in Ballarat, Victoria in 1854, ‘The Valley of Blood and Gold’ observes the greed and the glory of Australia’s Gold Rush.

Fintan is orphaned and living with his widowed Aunt and younger cousins in the mining town of Ballarat. The Eureka Rebellion is brewing, with miners becoming increasingly disgruntled and violent in the face of unfair taxes enforced by the government. As civil unrest is unleashed, Fintan starts to uncover the truth about his parents’ death . . . and the extent some people will go for the love of money.

Tony Palmer’s young adult book is a roughed and rugged read. Between these pages he evokes a fascinating and frightening slice of Australian history – undoubtedly one of our nation’s more interesting periods in time. The Eureka Rebellion (also known as the Eureka Stockade) is still famous as the only armed rebellion in the history of Australia. Eureka signified a turning point in Australian history and politics, when the masses rose up against the government, questioned and fought for their civil liberties. Any primary school student can attest to the Eureka Rebellion being one of Australia’s more fascinating points of history.

‘The Valley of Blood and Gold’ is heady with foreboding, as Palmer writes about the civil disobedience and disquiet amongst the miners and settlers of Ballarat. Funnily enough, however, the actual Eureka Rebellion (the moment to which the climax is constantly building) is not the most significant account in the book. In fact, the actual fighting of the rebellion takes up little page time. More interesting is what comes before the violence, as Palmer explores and expands on Ballarat in the 1800’s – the lives of miners who have come from many countries, but who all share the same gold-fevered dreams.

More interesting still, is the mystery Fintan is constantly unravelling throughout the book, concerning his parents’ death. This is where Palmer really excels – giving readers a young man through which to see this period of time and experience the foreign past.

The book is also peppered with true-blue Aussie characters; from the bush ranger Lawson King, to the many immigrant miners and settlers, and even some interesting Aboriginal characters like the wise old woman, Mumyareum. The cast of secondary characters embolden the novel and enrich the history;
“Everyone talks about a war now,” Lawson King said to Matthew. “Everyone. Miners. Soldiers. Troublemakers.” He laughed shortly. “Whose side are you on, boy?”
“I don’t know,” said Matthew.
“Look after yourself,” said Lawson King. “Trust only yourself. Never have friends. Friends are the worst danger a man can have.” Lawson King Laughed.
‘The Valley of Blood and Gold’ is a beautifully jagged Australian novel. Tony Palmer explores a moment in Australian history that was both bloody and beguiling, made all the more so when our young protagonist has a family mystery to solve and a Rebellion to survive. Brilliant!


1 comment:

  1. awesome review mate.

    i really liked this one too. it had that raw, dusty but kinda vibrant feel.

    i wish there had been a smidgen more about the stockade :)

    ciao ;)


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