After reading Mirandi Riwoe’s haunting Fish Girl novella, I had high expectations of Stone Sky Gold Mountain. Set on the Queensland goldfields, this was a very different story, but did not disappoint.
The story explores the experiences of Chinese immigrants who arrived on the goldfields to make the money so their parents can afford to help their parents afford to keep their siblings at home. The siblings had been sold into labour in China.
Another strand tells of the maid of a goldfields prostitute who befriends one of the siblings – a relationship that is taboo given that one is Chinese while the other is Caucasian.
The racism, prejudices and brutality of the goldfields is clear in the stories, and an accepted part of life for the protoganists.
Living in Ballarat, where I love to visit Sovereign Hill to learn about the goldrush history that occurred here, I was fascinated by the stories of the characters whose lives were so difficult, and desperate.
It was easy to imagine them camping in their tents or basic houses at night, with the sounds of miners drowning their sorrows close by.
The story gave the impression of frontier lifestyles where only the lucky and hardy survived.
Riwoe writes with ease and clarity and I can see why her book was shortlisted for the 2021 Stella Prize and I hope it is successful. It would be a deserving winner.