There’s gold in them there hills of… New Zealand? Who knew! Well, the author obviously and through his own knowledge and interest in geology this is based around the Southern Alps of NZ.
When his father dies, leaving behind a legacy of debt and failed businesses, Evan Cadwallader is doubtful that the derelict cottage in the foothills of the Alps will provide a solution. But he decides to visit anyway and falls in love with the property and the area with its remote location and tends to/repairs it. He retreats there every summer prospecting for gold at the ‘claim’ that has been left to him by a stranger (which seemed a little unbelievable). Out in the country on a stormy night his dog Viva goes missing and following her barking he finds himself in a gorge edge halfway down his claim, looking at the body of a young woman. Addie is close to death but Evan carries her home to his cottage and as he nurses her he learns about the story of her life.
Evan becomes torn between his feelings for Addie and the pull of his claim and his love of his ‘solitary life’. But does he really know Addie, especially when events take a worrying turn due to visiting hunters and missing gold?
The evocative descriptions of the scenery are wonderfully done and I learned a lot about panning for gold and the location of areas where such minerals can be found. Evan is an interesting character but I struggled with Addie and found her a bit superficial and potentially deceitful – a personality trait Evan is blind to ignore. She is a mysterious woman with too much to hide and is Evan blind to seeing the real truth?
Personally, I enjoyed the setting of the novel and the descriptions by the author of the gold panning and the remoteness of life. If you have seen the film The Hunt for the Wilderpeople I think you will once again feel that loneliness of the countryside being evoked even though the bigger cities of New Zealand are not that far away. It doesn’t feel contemporary but the 2011 Christchurch earthquake is mentioned. Many say the country is like Britain but back in the 1950s… although I never remember gold being discovered anyway here! The characters perhaps need more development, especially Addie, but overall a good personal read. Book clubs will be intrigued by a very different theme that is set out within the novel.
Philipa Coughlan 3/3
The Claim by David Briggs
RedDoor Publishing 9781910453735 pbk Jul 2019