Book Review: Alchemy and Rose by Sarah Maine

Alchemy and Rose…

About the Book:

A beautiful and sweeping historical novel that takes the reader from the west coast of New Zealand, to Scotland and Melbourne in the 1870s.

Will Stewart is one of many who have left their old lives behind to seek their fortunes in New Zealand’s last great gold rush. The conditions are hostile and the outlook bleak, but he must push on in his uncertain search for the elusive buried treasure.

Rose is about to arrive on the shores of South Island when a storm hits and her ship is wrecked. Just when all seems lost, she is snatched from the jaws of death by Will, who risks his life to save her. Drawn together by circumstance, they stay together by choice and for a while it seems that their stars have finally aligned.

But after a terrible misunderstanding they are cruelly separated, and their new-found happiness is shattered. As Will chases Rose across oceans and continents, he must come to terms with the possibility that he might never see her again. And if he does, he will have to face the man who took her.

My Thoughts:

Sarah Maine writes with a particular attention to detail when it comes to evocatively recreating life within an historical era and setting. A true sense of time and place could be felt whilst reading this novel, everything from the biting cold of a South Island New Zealand winter to the cloying damp of Scotland.

The powerlessness of women is explored in depth through Rose’s story. I found it honestly so bleak to contemplate her situation, the manner in which she could so easily be held against her will, society believing her captor’s stories about hysteria, as opposed to the truth she spoke. The vulnerability of women in the colonies was particularly startling. A poor man had the ability to have more agency over his own life than a woman with money.

I really enjoyed the way in which photography played such a part in the story. Fraser’s passion for capturing the darker side of life, the un-staged everyday occurrences, the grief and tragedy, the startling contrast between wealth and poverty; this was conveyed with such vivid realisation, I felt as though I could really see his photos. Without early photography pioneers, how much history would we not be able to see? The suspicion surrounding photography was interesting, so hard to imagine now that such a thing could ever be suspect, but back then, when photography was in its infancy, I suppose it must have seemed fantastical and, on another level, indulgent, even voyeuristic perhaps.

It was terrific to read a novel of historical fiction set in New Zealand. I hadn’t read anything about the New Zealand gold rush previously and it was fascinating to contemplate it in comparison to Australia. The weather would have certainly offered greater challenges but in many ways, it also seemed like the same type of people living in the same sort of squalid conditions all chasing the same dream, yet never really achieving it.

Alchemy and Rose was an entirely enjoyable read and one that I would highly recommend to fans of adventurous historical fiction.


Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Alchemy and Rose for review.

About the Author:

Sarah Maine was born in England but grew up partly in Canada before returning to England for university. She studied archaeology and for many years worked in the profession but is now a freelance writer and researcher.

Alchemy and Rose
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Released 7th January 2021

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Alchemy and Rose by Sarah Maine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s