Reviews: The Tin Heart Gold Mine

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Photo of book cover of The Tin Heart Gold Mine

An intelligent and complex study of human behaviour in difficult circumstances

It would be easy to underestimate this book. On one level it is a complicated 3-way love story with a somewhat naïve and idealistic heroine falling for the wrong man; but it is about more than that. At heart it is a meditation on growing up and learning from experience; on catharsis and making the best choices in difficult circumstances, often involving compromises that will please no one. It is about loyalty and trust (well judged or misplaced). It is also about the damaging effects of war; how banal revenge and brutality damages innocents and how that damage is sustained and causes more unnecessary suffering decades later; how the trauma of one child can indirectly impact on to another child decades later if the adults involved do not make a conscious effort to break the chain.

The book draws on the author’s own experiences in Zimbabwe and Zambia, although she roots part of the story in London so that an interest in Africa doesn’t become a criterion for the reader to pick up the book or not. I know the author personally and I started reading the book because of that; but I finished it because I enjoyed it. It’s extremely well constructed and well written; and deserves to be better known.

First posted by Nicholas Inman on Amazon 28 Aug 2019

Marianne Gray reviews The Tin Heart Gold Mine for The South African

The Tin Heart Gold Mine reeks with life in Africa. It is an intriguing novel of skillfully interwoven tales of art, politics, money, love, war and corruption, a vivid tale centred in post-colonial Southern Africa, mainly on one of those small elite expat communities in a far-flung African republic, nominally Chambeshi, Zambia.

The story of Lara, an artist, about art, Africa and what happens when the past unburies itself, The Tin Heart Gold Mine is on the surface a story of an artist in Africa trying to find a personal strategy for fulfilment. On her way, she encounters Tim, an idealistic foreign correspondent, and Oscar an older man with a mysterious past. But deeper than that it is a story of betrayal, hard choices, personal and social violence.

The Thrill and the Poetry of The Tin Heart Gold Mine

I read The Tin Heart Gold Mine in one sitting. It was such a rich and complex story that, once in, I knew the only way out lay at the other end! I then needed to sit with the story for a few days, avoiding reading any other novel, while I mulled over what exactly had affected me.

First of all, I loved the descriptions of the African bush, and of the hard work and constant learning that are necessary to survive and succeed there. They fanned into flame my ever-present longing to be back there, under that wide African sky. Because these descriptions are so detailed, they are relatable, certainly to anyone who has lived in, or even just visited, Africa, and probably too to those who have not yet been there. These descriptions work strongly to ground the story in a convincing reality. Yes, it is set in the fictional country of 'Chambeshi', but you can smell the dawn air and feel the sandy soil beneath your feet... you soon replace that name in your own head with a real one that you know!

The Inspiration Behind Ruth Hartley's New Novel The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Author Ruth Hartley writes a piece for Female First upon the release of her new book The Tin Heart Gold Mine.

There are so many threads woven into The Tin Heart Gold Mine, most from my own life. My novel is set in the very recent past, but one thread began long before I was born. In 1903 an explorer in an unknown and, as yet, uncolonised African country found beautiful green malachite stones on the banks of the Kafue River and made a claim to mine copper ore there. Eighty years later I visited the then-defunct mine. It was close to the Hippo Safari Camp where my husband and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary with friends and champagne. We heard the noise of a small plane overheard. A handsome, rich and charming businessman had flown into the bush camp in an attempt to gatecrash our party.

I knew at once that I had the key to my story. The character Oscar — owner of the mine — now transformed in my head to a gold mine — walked into my imagination and smiled his lopsided grin. ... Read More

The Tin Heart Gold Mine is Exciting and Thoughtful — Five Stars

This is a splendid book set both in a turbulent African country on the verge of a coup and in London’s art-world of the 80s and 90s, as we follow Lara’s tumultuous life from her student years through to the beginnings of maturity as a wife and mother. It is all at once a thriller, a love story and a reflection.

We accompany Lara through a loss of innocence; the vehicles for this are Art, Sex and Africa — I give each of these words a capital letter to bring to them the weight that they carry throughout the book, each is a feature of her deepest way of being. Though there is masses of action and excitement and one gets really hooked in, there is also space given to thought and introspection as Lara tries to work out how she really feels about life as it whirls her round on its carousel. Highly recommended!

First posted by Mrs Rivers on Amazon 8 Feb 2017

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5 Comments on “Reviews: The Tin Heart Gold Mine”

  1. John Corley

    The Tin Heart Gold Mine is on the surface a story of an artist in Africa trying to find a personal strategy for fulfilment. On her way she encounters Tim, an idealistic foreign correspondent, and Oscar an older man with a mysterious past. But deeper than that it is a story of betrayal, hard choices, personal and social violence and at the end of the book you are left with doubt – Will Tim come back?, Can Oscar really be dead? and who is the father of Lara’s child? A fascinating read!

  2. Charles Getliffe

    Once started The Tin Heart Gold Mine is a book you won’t want to put down. It should come with a warning that any potential reader must be prepared to set aside a day or two to read it without any distractions. This book is wonderfully paced and well plotted. It has it all, a real page-turner.

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Charles – thank you for taking the time and trouble to post this review – it means a great deal to me . All writers need this support. Ruth

  3. Amanda Marginson

    A perceptive, entertaining and at times, confronting story which kept me going into the small hours. The author captures a chapter in Zambian history and the beauty and danger of the country is undercurrent. We follow the artist Lara as she takes up a commission with the enigmatic Oscar at his Tin Heart safari camp but the story dips and dives into the past as we piece together a larger story through Lara’s varied and unexpected relationships. Lara continually turns to her art as an anchor (for her sense of displacement from Africa when she is in London); to soothe (during her pregnancy she is compelled to render gentle creatures rather than wild beasts in her mural); or to judge character (Oscar’s face). The tin heart is poignantly explained. The ending stayed with me a long time. An absorbing story and recommended reading.

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Amanda! Thank you so much for this review of The Tin Heart Gold Mine! It is heartening and encouraging and I am very grateful to you for writing it here on my comments page. You have done an excellent summation of the book. So happy that you liked it!