Title: Palace of Tears
Author: Julian Leatherdale
Genre: Historical/Contemporary/Family Saga
Opens: … The promise of fire was in the air that morning …
Blurb: A sweltering summer’s day, January 1914: the charismatic and ruthless Adam Fox throws a lavish birthday party for his son and heir at his elegant clifftop hotel in the Blue Mountains. Everyone is invited except Angie, the girl from the cottage next door. The day will end in tragedy, a punishment for a family’s secrets and lies. Almost 100 years later in 2013, Fox’s granddaughter Lisa, seeks the truth about the past. Who is this Angie her mother speaks of: ‘the girl who broke all our hearts‘? Why do locals call Fox’s hotel the ‘Palace of Tears’? Behind the grandeur and glamour of its famous guests and glittering parties, Lisa discovers a hidden history of passion and revenge, loyalty and love. A grand piano burns in the night, a séance promises death or forgiveness, a fire rages in a snowstorm, a painter’s final masterpiece inspires betrayal, and a child is given away. With twist upon twist, this lush, strange mystery withholds its shocking truth to the very end.
My Thoughts: I have just read my 2015 book of the year; a book that kept me enthralled; a book that I actually deliberately read slowly because I didn’t want it to end; a book that moved me to my very core.
Set in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney in Australia PALACE OF TEARS covers a hundred years, 2 world wars and a family that is stuffed full of secrets and haunted by a tragedy. Told from the point of view of mostly female characters, the story is gradually revealed. The story is not linear, it goes back and forth between the different time periods and narrators, but the story doesn’t once miss a beat.
The main narrators are six of women that are connected to Adam Fox – Angie and her mother Freya; both of Adam’s wives, Adelina and Laura; Laura’s daughter, Monika who is suffering from early stages Alzheimer’s; and finally in the present day, Lisa, who is Monika’s daughter. Adam Fox does relate the odd part – to fill in the bits the women aren’t privy to.
Lisa, the granddaughter of Adam, starts an investigation into her family history when her mother mentions a girl named Angie in a lucid moment. Lisa decides to find out who Angie is, why she broke everyone’s heart, and what became of her. In the process the reader gets to learn lots about Australia’s social history – and at times feel a sense of shame at the actions of civilized people. As I was reading I made the following note:
I have just read a very distressing scene where narrow minded Australians raise their arms against fellow Australians. During WWI innocent Australians born in Australia but descended from Germans, along with German born Australians, were treated with utmost contempt by the ‘holier than thou’ non-German born/descended Australians. I wept at the scene – and then thought – nothing changes. Just swap the word German for Middle Eastern!"
People of German origin were considered to be the enemy, even if their sons were fighting in the Australian Army. They were bashed, their houses stoned and set fire too, their belongings desecrated, and then, the men at least, were shut up in concentration camps, sorry internment camps, treated as possible German spies. Even in the camps they were kept them in appalling conditions while the rest of Australia jumped up and down at the treatment of Australian prisoners of war, not caring we were doing the same. OK we didn’t kill our internee’s – but we are not on the moral high ground here. Then some 20 odd years later we did the same again – only Japanese people and Italians were thrown into the mix as well. The whole story thread was handled very well all out in the open – a warts and all look at the historical events. The treatment of foreign nationals was unfair, it was unjust, it was created out of ignorance and it was an unsubstantiated fear and author Julian Leatherdale used it in his story brilliantly.
This debut novel of Julian’s melds history and fiction together seamlessly and I was absolutely hooked from the very first page, and devastated when it came to end – no matter how good the ending was. The story is well paced, easy to follow despite the twists and turns and different time periods. Julian Leatherdale has gone onto that small list of mine where I write the names of authors who I would read their shopping list if they published it.
Do yourself a favour and read it.
For more about the author – Click Here
A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.
With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99