Suzannah Casey was just twelve years old when she was transported to the Australian colony from Ireland. Though devastated by her circumstances, she was grateful to be given an opportunity to start a new life on the Goulburn Plains with ex-convict, George Oakes. However, Suzannah could never have imagined the trauma and loss that lay ahead of her. She must find the faith and courage to overcome abuse, abandonment, religious bigotry and her own yearnings in order to discover what is more precious than gold.
Review by Hazel Barker
Suzannah’s Gold is a smorgasbord of women’s fiction, family saga and historical fiction. The author uses excellent dialogue and vivid characterization. She delves into the main characters’ minds and we get a sense of their deep loyalties or hostilities and hatred.
Mary Anne springs to life with her Irish accent, her flirtatious behaviour, her bigotry and hypocritical ways. Adversity brings out the best in her and the reader sees remarkable character growth.
The protagonist, Suzannah, on the other hand, follows her conscience regardless of the consequences on her own happiness. She is intrinsically good: long-suffering, kind and forgiving, and faces no spiritual struggles. I found her too good to be true even though she was based on the author’s great-great-grandmother.
The book has been well-researched and its 309 pages are crammed with descriptions of drought, fires and floods. The description of the fire sets the scene realistically. It is vivid and quickens the pace. Although faithfully mirroring the early history of Australia, the frequency of births, sicknesses and deaths is repetitious. The number of characters causes confusion.
There are two rape scenes in the story—the first from the point of view of a child-witness. The second rape scene is well-written and depicted in all its horror without being offensive to the reader. Unfortunately, errors in the grammatical use of the word ‘lay’ interrupt the story and diminish the pleasure of reading. Readers should, however, add to their knowledge of Australian history and better understand the sufferings and strength the pioneers experienced.
Suzannah’s Gold with its theme of Christian charity, faith and forgiveness delivers a message with a strong ending:
‘Come to Me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’