Monday, May 6, 2019

Review: Gold Fever by Steve Boggan

The California Gold Rush. 1849, right? Yes, but did you have any idea that people are still prospecting for gold in the modern day? You've probably seen ads offering to buy your old unwanted gold jewelry for top dollar or maybe you've been invited to a gold party where you take old, tangled chains and other assorted pieces you no longer want and sell them to the consultant running the party, a kind of reverse Tupperware situation. The ads and the parties may not be as prevalent today as they were just a handful of years ago, but like modern day gold prospecting, they are similar results to the global financial crisis that saw prices for gold and other precious metals skyrocket in the early twenty-teens. In Steve Boggan's Gold Fever, the UK journalist set out to try his own hand at panning for gold, to illuminate the history of the past Gold Rush, and to chronicle the community hard at work in California rivers and streams.

There's something addicting about gold and the idea of making a fortune overnight after finding just one sizable nugget and even a journalist who recognizes that panning for gold is akin to playing the lottery isn't immune to that lure. As the price of gold climbed in 2011, Steve Boggan decided to see just what it was about gold. He had no experience. He didn't even live in the US, never mind California. All he had was a healthy curiosity. So like the original '49ers, he set out to make of this mini gold rush what he could. His experiences, the people he met, and a historical perspective all weave together beautifully in this narrative travelogue.

Boggan as a prospector is charming and lucky, not because he finds gold, but because he finds acceptance and help in the small community of people looking to strike gold in modern days. His recounting of his travels through gold country today and the historic places of yesteryear are appealing and descriptive. He talks to people who have made panning for gold their reason for being and he discusses the ways in which the technique today, aided by technology, differs from 1849. He meets some real characters and he offers up his own sometimes bumbling attempts in this quest, keeping the reader fully engaged in the tale he's telling and rooting for him to actually find gold. The tone is familiar and casual and Boggan is dryly funny. He is also openly surprised by his own attraction to the hunt, his own gold fever. I'm not sure I'd want to learn to prospect for gold but I sure did enjoy going along for the ride as Boggan did. This is a delightful and interesting read for both those who know about and are interested in the 1849 Gold Rush and for those who aren't.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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