Gold Fever, by Susan Coleridge

‘Tonight, like all the other nights, it had started with the hands. Dirty, bent hands feeling around in the darkness. And behind the hands were faces – shadowy faces, with dark, watching eyes.
Then came the voice.
It was always a man’s voice – low and muffled like it was coming from underground – deep underground.

Robert’s class is going on excursion to the ‘fake gold mining town’, Sovereign Hill. It’s nearly a year since Dad died and Robert and his family are having trouble coping. It’s an effort to be enthusiastic about anything. Then, once he gets to Sovereign Hill, strange things begin to happen. A wax statue moves, a dog follows him and then disappears. Robert falls into an impossible hole dug by the dog and the mystery begins. He experiences some of the reality of living in a working gold mine town – and it is very different from visiting a recreated town. He doesn’t understand how he got there or why and wonders what he must do to return home again.

Gold Fever is set in Sovereign Hill, a replica town, where every effort is made to reproduce life on the gold diggings. The story is well-paced and features many well-drawn cameo characters. There is plenty of adventure to keep the pages turning. The reader is given an opportunity to see the difference between the fun of visiting Sovereign Hill as a modern day visitor and of living in a time where people die of minor ailments and thirteen-year-olds work in dank, dark, dusty mines. Twelve-year-old Robert learns that suffering, death and survival are part of every life. There are many themes to explore in this first novel from Susan Coleridge. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Gold Fever by Susan Coleridge
Lothian Books 2006
ISBN: 0734409605