The Pacifist by Mehreen Ahmed

The Pacifist by Mehreen Ahmed
Publication date: May 2017
Publisher: Cosmic Teapot Publishing
Format: eBook
Buy it here: Amazon, The Book Depository

Goodreads Description

In 1866, Peter Baxter’s misfortune ends the day he leaves Badgerys Creek orphanage. Unsure of what to do next, Peter finds himself on a farm run by Mr. Brown. An aging man, Brown needs help and is happy to give Peter a place to live in exchange for his labor. Unbeknownst to Peter, Brown’s past is riddled with dark secrets tied to the same orphanage, which he has documented in a red folder.

During a chance encounter, Peter meets Rose. Peter cannot help but fall in love with her beauty, grace, and wit but fears that his affection will go unrequited as a result of his crippling poverty. But fate changes when Peter joins the search for gold in Hill End, New South Wales. Striking it rich, he returns to Rose a wealthy man. Peter is changed by his new found affluence, heading towards the mire of greed. Will Rose regret her relationship with Peter? 

Meanwhile, Rose has her own troubled history. One that is deeply entwined with Brown’s past and Peter’s future. 

I absolutely adored this book.

Originally, I thought I would give this book 4 stars. However, The Pacifist is one of those books that gets better after contemplating the story and the fate of its characters. On the surface, this book feels like quite a simple rags-to-riches story about a man who got caught up in the New South Wales gold rush. 

This book is not that simple, or straightforward, at all. It turns the cliché of rags-to-riches upside down.

The Pacifist begins with a sixteen-year-old boy, Peter Baxter, who escapes from an orphanage and ends up stumbling into the life of Farmer Brown. They work together and become close, but Peter learns the truth about how the farm is owned by the orphanage with horrible conditions attached, which has caused Brown much stress - however, he confides in Peter, and it is here where we realise that this book is made up of many curious layers piled on top of each other. Peter eventually embarks on a journey to mine gold in the New South Wales gold rush. After a while, he strikes it lucky and brings home a huge gold nugget which makes him wealthy and a respectable gentleman overnight. Using his fortune, he climbs up the gold rush rankings, becoming richer and more powerful than he ever imagined. Meanwhile, we read chapters about Rose, his future wife, and how her history, and her family, intertwines with Peter's. 

This book made me smile, made me laugh, gave me chills and made me cry. 

Ultimately, this book SHINES in its details. I was curious about the New South Wales gold rush, and this book has definitely sparked an interest in Australian history for me. I was glad to find out more about the raw realities the gold miners, the Aboriginals, and the lower classes of society during this period in Australia - which, after all, is connected to my home country back in Britain. It made me realise how we don't get to learn much about Australian history, and this made me downright horrified. The historical details shine through in the form of letters and diary entries, which have an intimate feel to them.

The mysteries and the revelations, GUYS, are SO satisfying. The delicate way Ahmed weaves the histories of the families together and surprises us with huge details that were missing before, adds quite a special, and unforgettable touch to the book. Ahmed's use of descriptions, metaphors and similes are first-class. The author's description of food made my mouth water - it was on par with George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The similes made me smirk: 'a handful of local reporters sat with their camera men, waiting glumly like toads on lily pads for the next scoop'. Haha.

Ultimately, though, this book is very dark. It explores subjects like pedophilia, rape, adultery, mental illness, suicide, death and the abuse of children. The author is incredibly brave for writing about these subjects, and I wholeheartedly applaud her because she has done it so well. It's raw, but the author pulls no punches. Without a doubt, these awful things would have been happening during this period, as indeed it happens today. Don't let these subjects put you off, but do be prepared beforehand. It is easy to lose yourself in the world of The Pacifist, and you will become emotionally invested in the characters and the mysteries, which will keep you engrossed throughout. It's only 300 pages (for those who love books on the shorter side) so you'll find yourself speeding through it.

I loved this book so much, and will definitely be exploring more of Ahmed's work.

P. S. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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