Gold was discovered in Australia in 1851, and within a year the infant colony was transformed from a sump for convicts to a Land of Opportunity. Robyn Annear’s lively history describes in detail life on the diggings: the mud of winter and dust of summer, the pluckiness of the women and children, the grog shanties, the flies, the mania of mining, the despair and the delirium, and the much hated licensing system which was to culminate in the Eureka Stockade.
‘Robyn Annear tells the story of the 1852 gold rushes in imaginative detail … she tells us how it felt to be there. You find yourself worrying about the problems long ago resolved, sharply aware of the gold diggers’ hopes and ordeals, diverted by the high comedy of a chaotic life. Like all good narratives, it looks easy because it is so easily read and enjoyed … She makes a mosaic out of small moments of experience … The physical realities of the diggings are evoked, with all the ingenious ways of managing tent space, cooking, guarding gold, finding feed for horses, keeping off wind and rain, ants and mice.‘ Brenda Niall