The Australian Women's Weekly
THE OPAL DRAGONFLY by Julian Leatherdale, A&U Follow-up to Leatherdale’s Palace
of Tears, this musical lyricist is carving himself a niche with sumptuous historical fiction.
Darling Point, 1851, is where Isobel, 17, favourite daughter of Major Sir Angus Macleod, lives in lavish Rosemount House. When her father (based on real-life Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor – General of NSW) is challenged to a duel, the accomplished horsewoman, botanist and painter dresses in male attire (a breach of law), feeling exhilaration as she tries to stop the fight. Key to the plot is Ballandella, the Aboriginal girl her father brought back
“like a fossil” from an expedition, along with two opals fashioned as a dragonfly brooch for her late mother which Isobel reluctantly inherits. THE TOYMAKERS by Robert Dinsdale, Penguin It’s 1906 and 15-year-old pregnant Cathy is being taken by her mother to Mrs Abermarle’s Home for Moral Welfare, where Mrs Wray plans her daughter shall sell her baby. “Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart?” the newspaper advert reads. A toymaker is looking for sales staff and so Cathy flees her estuary home, for London’s West End and Papa Jack’s Emporium. The toymaker’s sons, Kaspar and Emil, vye for her attention, but both help deliver daughter Martha in the Wendy House, the insides of which are preposterous in size. “When making toys you have to have the perspective of a child.” Remember how BIG that tree house was? Mystery, memory, magic and a real live patchwork dog called Sirus – but you mustn’t forget to keep winding him up. Fantastical. THE LAST TRAIN by Sue Lawrence, A&U Based on the Dundee Tay Bridge disaster of 1879, in which all passengers perished as the collapsing bridge dragged the train down with it into the river, Lawrence uses clever coincidence to her fictional disappearances of a husband and a partner, separated by more than a century.
Mill owner Robert Craig may not have taken his first class seat on the
4.15 from Edinburgh after all, and wife Ann cannot mourn. In 2015 Fiona Craig is speechless when Australian partner, Pete, empties their Dundee bank account and leaves a note,
“I must be moving on.” But this is a novella about feisty Scottish women and while Ann gets guidance from a Victorian “mesmerist”, and Fiona wonders if witness protection could be a clue, these two mothers sleuth on parallel tracks.