The Australian Women's Weekly - - The Reading Room -

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.

Syd­ney’s evolv­ing

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.

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