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The Colour



Awards: Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction - Nominee, Fiction

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About The Author

Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain is the author of nine novels, most recently Music & Silence, and her work has been translated into fourteen languages. She lives in Norfolk, England, with the biographer Richard Holmes.

Awards

Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction - Nominee, Fiction

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Reading Group Gold

Reading Group Guide Questions

1. Discuss the significance of houses and homes in The Colour. Why is such attentive detail paid

to the architecture and décor of these places. Why, for instance, is Harriet and Joseph’s Cob

House built around the chimney?

2. In the beginning of the novel husband, wife, and mother all think greatly about the future and

the past – in some respects, an escape from their previous home and an expectation for their

current one. Joseph comments on page 54 that: “All life…is a flight from mistake to mistake.”

And while Lilian comments on page 29 that “nothing here is ever quite as one has imagined it”

she then reveals she too has a “plan” for the future. What does these characters’ ideas about the

future and the past say about them as characters? What sort of expectations does Tremain

establish by delivering such information?

3. Further to the previous question: the lives lived in The Colour seem to operate by two opposite

poles -- those guided by an unknowable destiny or fate, and those guide by their own actions or

ingenuity. Who lives by which in the novel, and what does it determine about them and about

the author’s role in creating their lives. Whose destiny is actually at work, and is this also some

sort of commentary about history itself?

4. How is the notion of responsibility handles in the novel? Lilian to her son Joseph; Joseph to his

wife and mother; Pare to the boy Edwin; Pao Yi to Harriet. Who has a responsibility to whom

in the book?

5. The Colour is very much a novel about perception and self-perception, most often when

depicting Class structure. How does the society of 19th century England re-create itself in the

wilds of New Zealand? What is upheld and what breaks down?

6. The eel man in Christchurch uses the word “Preservation” in describing the pickling of the eel.

How does this word resonate throughout the rest of the novel? What might this salesman know

that others do not?

7. It can be said that landscape plays an enormous role in these characters’ lives, but can it be said

that landscape actually changes who these people are? If so, what does it turn them into?

8. Again and again the characters in The Colour make attempts to connect with one another, and

not simply by speaking but through subtler, more intimate gestures. One such attempt, handled

in a variety of fashions, is sex. How does each character approach sexuality?

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