Author: Mirandi Riwoe
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Mirandi Riwoe wrote a prize-winning novella The Fish Girl before writing Stone Sky Gold Mountain. She lives in Brisbane and has a PhD in creative writing.
This historical novel tells a poignant story of two young Chinese siblings and is set in Australia in the late 1800s. Ying, disguised as a male, and Lai Yue, her older brother, arrive in the North Queensland goldfields after fleeing their home in China. Their aim is to accumulate wealth before returning to China to find their younger siblings. They exist in meagre and sometimes dangerous conditions with long working hours panning for gold.
Driven from the goldfields, Ying takes refuge with and works for a Chinese storekeeper. It’s during this time she meets Meriem, a young woman who has experienced her own troubled times and works as a housekeeper for a brothel worker. The intriguing friendship between Ying and Meriem slowly develops over time. Lai Yue, after squandering his gold to buy opium, joins a droving crew as a cook in an attempt to redeem his losses.
Find out more about Mirandi Riwoe at The Garrett
Mirandi Riwoe tells a compelling story, it’s both gentle and harsh. The author demonstrates an acute understanding of human frailty and resilience, highlighted by the injustice and discrimination dished out to minority groups on the goldfields. The issues of racism and sexism are explored through acute story telling and beautiful writing.
The three main characters are memorable, the pace, structure and the ending developed to perfection. The plight of early Chinese miners in Australia is rarely explored in its own right but this book brings the lived experience to the page, which, in my view, makes this story unique.
Reviewed by: Heather Whitford Roche, June 2020
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group