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Book review: Scarlet & Magenta by Lindsey Dawson

Set in the Bay of Plenty during the 1880s, Scarlet & Magenta is a powerful and fascinating historical novel that vividly brings the sights and sounds of the time to life. Violet Sutton arrives from London into the tiny town of Tauranga. Beautiful, headstrong, opinionated – and with a sad past, and in an unhappy, abusive marriage – she is soon causing rumours and scandal amongst all the dutiful members of ‘proper’ society. Life for women, in particular, is incredibly restricted at this time – life in many ways a list of things women are not allowed to do. Violet finds a friend in Anna, a married woman who is constrained by society but curious about life and ideas beyond her day-to-day domestic duties. Violet also finds a friend in Rupert, a charming, but impulsive man. When Violet breaks the rules of living in a small, conservative town, the consequences will be dramatic and far-reaching.

This is Lindsey’s ninth book, so the reader is in accomplished hands. The characters are well-drawn, the plot-line increasingly compelling, and there has clearly been considerable research into the period. Inspired by letters written by Lindsey’s great-grandfather, Lindsey has done a magnificent job blending fact and fiction, and creating a book that is assured and enjoyable. I would highly recommend this beautifully-written novel, that lingered in my mind long after the last page.


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