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Synopsis

Heartrending tragedy drives an Irish farmer from his family and farm in the closing years of the 19th century. James Thorne had married in haste, to regret at leisure, Margaret-Anne, a woman with strong ideas about the rights of women and how things should be done about the farm. Her rampant proselytization and lack of reticence deprives James of the quiet matrimony of earlier imaginings.

 

Agricultural depression and rising tension at home culminate in the calamitous death of their favorite daughter Maggie. Bitter and disillusioned, James leaves home to join the more than one million people streaming out of Britain each year in search of a better life.

 

Steerage passage aboard an emigrant ship introduces James to the realities of his new circumstances: the uncertainty and insecurity, the threats and dangers, and the constant soul-destroying vagueness about the future. It also introduces him to the broad swathe of humanity involved in this mass migration.

 

Arrived in New Zealand, James experiences the disappointments and disasters of the recently arrived colonial. Eventually, hard work and perseverance lead to success in the construction of gold dredges on the goldfields of the West Coast. Against this colorful and vibrant background James develops from impulsive irresponsibility to considered maturity.

 

James Thorne is a tale of colonial ambition at the close of the nineteenth century. It is narrated from the perspective of several of the major characters: James himself, his beloved daughter Maggie, his overbearing wife Margaret-Anne, and Helen the woman he falls in love with in Wellington.

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