It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

Another good reading week for me. I finished Gallipoli Street followed by Footsteps in an Empty Room. I must have been in a Lilly Sommers mood because I immediately picked up The Dark Dream. This is a re-read of my favourite of her novels.

What I Read Last Week

Gallipoli Street by Mary Anne O'Connor

An Anzac tale of three families whose destinies are entwined by war, tragedy and passion.
At 17, Veronica O’Shay is happier running wild on the family farm than behaving in the ladylike manner her mother requires, and she despairs both of her secret passion for her brother’s friend Jack Murphy and what promises to be a future of restraint and compliance. 
But this is 1913 and the genteel tranquillity of rural Beecroft is about to change forever as the O’Shay and Murphy families, along with their friends the Dwyers, are caught up in the theatre of war and their fates become intertwined.
From the horrors of Gallipoli to the bloody battles of the Somme, through love lost and found, the Great Depression and the desperate jungle war along the Kokoda Track, this sprawling family drama brings to life a time long past… a time of desperate love born in desperate times and acts of friendship against impossible odds.
A love letter to Australian landscape and character, Gallipoli Street celebrates both mateship and the enduring quality of real love. But more than that, this book shows us where we have come from as a nation, by revealing the adversity and passions that forged us.
A stunning novel that brings to life the love and courage that formed our Anzac tradition.

Footsteps in an Empty Room by Lilly Sommers

At the turn of the last century, Alice is a 12-year-old servant girl at Colonsay, the big house on the Victorian coast belonging to wily political strategist Cosmo Cunningham and his beautiful young wife Ambrosine.
In the present day, Rosamund becomes the reluctant inheritor of Colonsay, her childhood home. But as the extensive renovation work begins, odd things start happening: a thumping in the empty attic that dislodges plaster from the ceiling of the room below. A lingering scent of honeysuckle. Then the building crew suffer not one but two nasty accidents. And suddenly there is talk of prayers and clairvoyants and messages from the dead… What terrible secret lies within Colonsay? Can Rosamund make peace with the past and free her own future?

The Dark Dream by Lilly Sommers

Who is Ella Seaton?
Waking face-down in the mud by Seaton’s lagoon, her head throbbing from an ugly wound, a young woman struggles to come to terms with an unfamiliar world. Who is she? Why can’t she remember? Was she on her way to the goldfields at Bendigo? Or escaping from them? All she has are snatches of a dark dream, a dream which holds memories she is too terrified to face. Adam, a handsome young goldfields merchant, befriends her on the road, but Adam is a man with secrets of his own. As she travels from the danger and excitement of the goldfields to polite Sydney society, Ella begins to unravel the threads of her past to confront the startling truth. A truth that will change her life forever.

What I'm Reading Today

I'm into the first few chapters of the following books, but the one that's taken over my reading time is Scapegallows.

The House of War and Witness by Mike, Linda and Louise Carey

In the year 1740, with the whole of Europe balanced on the brink of war, a company of Austrian soldiers is sent to the village of Narutsin to defend the border with Prussia. But what should be a routine posting is quickly revealed to be anything but. The previous garrison is gone, the great house of Pokoj, where they're to be billeted, a dilapidated ruin, and the people of Narutsin sullen and belligerent. Convinced the villagers are keeping secrets - and possibly consorting with the enemy - the commanding officer orders his junior lieutenant, Klaes, to investigate. While Klaes sifts through the villagers' truths, half-truths and lies, Drozde, the quartermaster's woman, is making uncomfortable discoveries of her own - about herself, her man, and the house where they've all been thrown together. Because far from being the empty shell it appears to be, Pokoj is actually teeming with people. It's just that they're all dead. And the dead know things - about Drozde, about the history of Pokoj, and about the terrible event that is rushing towards them all, seemingly unstoppable. The ghosts of Pokoj, the soldiers of the empress and the villagers of Narutsin are about to find themselves actors in a story that has been unfolding for centuries. It will end in blood - that much is written - but how much blood will depend on Klaes' honour, Drozde's skill and courage, and the keeping of an impossible promise ...

Scapegallows by Carol Birch

This is the story of Margaret Catchpole, born into a smugglers' world in Suffolk in the late 1700s. As the valued servant of a wealthy family and a friend of criminals, Margaret leads a double life that inevitably brings about her downfall, and she is sentenced to hang not once, but twice. But she escapes the gallows and is transported with other convicts to Australia. A wonderful adventure story, Scapegallows takes inspiration from the life of the real Margaret Catchpole. A woman who lived by her wits, she was a slip-gibbet, a scapegallows.

What I Hope to Read Next

I added these to my reading pile, so my next read may be one of them.

Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen

In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappelletti's darkest secrets. Those secrets-and the nurse's own deepest personal grief-erupt across five momentous days of love and loss that destroy a daughter, and a family. By turns comic, sensual, and tragic, Juliet's Nurse gives voice to one of literature's most memorable and distinctive characters, a woman who was both insider and outsider among Verona's wealthy ruling class. Exploring the romance and intrigue of interwoven loyalties, rivalries, jealousies, and losses only hinted at in Shakespeare's play, Juliet's Nurse offers an original perspective and a never-before-heard tale of the deepest love in Verona-the love between a grieving woman and her precious milk-daughter.

The Dressmaker of Dachau by Mary Chamberlain

Spanning the intense years of war, The Dressmaker of Dachau is a dramatic tale of love, conflict, betrayal and survival. It is the compelling story of one young woman's resolve to endure and of the choices she must make at every turn - choices which will contain truths she must confront. London, spring 1939. Eighteen-year-old Ada Vaughan, a beautiful and ambitious seamstress, has just started work for a modiste in Dover Street. A career in couture is hers for the taking - she has the skill and the drive - if only she can break free from the dreariness of family life in Lambeth. A chance meeting with the enigmatic Stanislaus von Lieben catapults Ada into a world of glamour and romance. When he suggests a trip to Paris, Ada is blind to all the warnings of war on the continent: this is her chance for a new start. Anticipation turns to despair when war is declared and the two are trapped in France. After the Nazis invade, Stanislaus abandons her. Ada is taken prisoner and forced to survive the only way she knows how: by being a dressmaker. It is a decision which will haunt her during the war and its devastating aftermath.

Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Set against the backdrop of the American South from the 1820s until the dawn of the Civil War, this is a remarkable story of fortitude, heartbrea, and indomitable will - and a tale that will forever illuminate the reading of Margaret Mitchell's unforgettable classic, Gone with the Wind. On the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue, an island consumed by the flames of revolution, a senseless attack leaves only one survivor: an infant girl. She falls into the hands of two French emigres, Henri and Solange Fournier, who take the beautiful child they call Ruth to the bustling American city of Savannah. What follows is the sweeping tale of Ruth's life as shaped by her strong-willed mistress and other larger-than-life personalities she encounters in the South: Jehu Glen, a free black man with whom Ruth falls madly in love; the shabbily genteel family that first hires Ruth as Mammy; Solange's daughter Ellen and the rough Irishman, Gerald O'Hara, whom Ellen chooses to marry; the Butler family of Charleston and their shocking connection to Mammy Ruth; and finally Scarlett O'Hara-the irrepressible Southern belle Mammy raises from birth.


  1. Glad to hear that Gallipoli Street turned out well. I read Donald McCaig's previous prequel to GWTW (Rhett Butler's People) and enjoyed it.

    My current read is Janet Kellough's The Burying Ground, set in Toronto in the 1850s.

    1. I'm sure you will enjoy Gallipoli Street too.

      Years ago I read Alexandra Ripley's sequel to GWTW, Scarlet, and wished I hadn't.Not that it was a bad book, just that the ending of GWTW was so powerful that I thought the sequel didn't do it justice. However, I'm not adverse to back stories and am looking forward to reading Ruth's Journey and Rhett Butler's People.

      I find I'm reading more historical fiction set in the USA thanks to you. At the moment I have two of Ann Weisgarber's books in my reading pile, The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. I will look for Janet Kellough's too.

    2. I've never read Alexandra Ripley's sequel and don't think I will - it was a huge seller in the US, but overall most people seemed to think it was a letdown. McCaig's writing style is noticeably different from Mitchell's, but I felt their storylines meshed together well. It may not have been the best idea for me to read both books so close together, though, because sometimes I have trouble remembering which aspects of Rhett's life came from which book.

      That's great that you have both of Ann Weisgarber's novels in your pile. I look forward to hearing what you think of them. The Kellough is interesting since I'm not very familiar with this period in Canadian history, although I know some of the street names, having been to Toronto twice.