Back in her native Australia after her notable chronicles of the ancient Romans, McCullough depicts a brilliant man who has the golden touch in everything but his marriage.
In a big sweep that covers much of the globe during the late 1800s, McCullough (The October Horse, 2002, etc.) introduces Alexander Kinross and the woman, Elizabeth, he sends for and marries. A man who never knew his father, Alexander leaves Scotland as a teenager in the mid-1800s determined to prove the local bigots wrong about his abilities. He moves to England and studies engineering, then goes on to California, where, with his nose for gold, he makes a bundle in the Gold Rush. Next is Australia, where he discovers more gold and establishes Kinross, a model town. Now immensely rich, and the owner of a magnificent house, he sends for Elizabeth, last seen as a child in Scotland, to be his bride. At 16, Elizabeth is too frightened of her dour skinflint of a father to disobey his orders to leave for Australia, but from the moment she meets Alexander, she’s repelled. Nearly losing her life in the process, she bears him two daughters, brilliant Nell and brain-damaged Anna. Told that Elizabeth should not have more children, Alexander spends more time with Ruby, his mistress, the woman he really loves. Paradoxically, Ruby, a former madam and the mother of brilliant half-Chinese Lee, becomes Elizabeth’s best friend and helps her deal with adolescent Anna’s rape, the murder of Anna’s rapist by her Chinese nurse, and the birth of Anna’s child. Though Alexander becomes an international tycoon, Elizabeth remains unimpressed. Only Lee, a few years younger than she and back from studying in England, touches her heart. But Elizabeth still has much to endure before Alexander, a fundamentally generous man, realizes the unwitting harm he has done to her and makes spectacular, if tragic, amends.
A colorful tale about colorful characters in colorful places and times. Vintage McCullough.