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The Golden Dream

The Golden Dream by Robert Michael Ballantyne
By: (1825-1894)

A young Englishman struck by Gold Fever! He is desperate to travel to California and become part of the great gold rush. He journeys to this remote and unfamiliar place and there he discovers the true value of gold, humanity and God.

The Golden Dream by RM Ballantyne is one of more than one hundred books written for young adults by this Scottish author. Published in 1861, the book follows the glorious tradition of Victorian adventure sagas which emerged from the great discoveries that were made during this time, as England began colonizing distant lands.

Robert Michael Ballantyne was also a gifted painter whose works were exhibited in some of the most important galleries in Europe and Scotland. He came from an eminent family of journalists and publishers and his uncle James Ballantyne was Sir Walter Scott's publisher. The family's wealth disappeared with the financial crisis that struck England in the late 19th century. Young Robert was compelled to abandon his studies and travel to Canada in search of employment. He wrote long and detailed letters home to his mother to ward off homesickness and this was what probably sparked the writing talent in him.

Many of his Canadian and American experiences formed the basis for his writing. He returned to Scotland aged 22 and in the next year itself, his first book, titled Hudson's Bay or Life in the Wilderness of North America was published. It achieved instant success and there was no looking back after that. He published a series of adventure stories which appealed to both young and old. His most famous work, The Coral Island, is still read with great pleasure even today.

Ballantyne was a meticulous and painstaking writer, who was extremely particular about getting the details right in his books. In fact, though The Coral Island was such a grand success, he'd made a minor mistake in it while referring to the thickness of coconut shells and this haunted him for years! In future works, he ensured that he researched every single fact thoroughly before putting it down.

One writer who owed a deep literary debt to Ballantyne was another famous Victorian adventure story-teller, Robert Louis Stevenson. In fact, he never lost an opportunity to confess how much The Coral Island had inspired his own book, Treasure Island. In his preface, Stevenson writes a laudatory poem praising writers like Ballantyne who provided the vision for such novels.

The Golden Dream is packed with authentic details about gold mining and the social milieu of the era. Ned Sinton is a memorable young hero, filled with curiosity and pluck, who follows his dream into an unknown and faraway land.

An exciting read!

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