Author: Elise McCune / Reviewer: JP Combe
Synopsis: (Allen & Unwin, 2016) Growing up together in a mysterious castle in northern Queensland, Rose and Vivien Blake are very close sisters. But during the Second World War their relationship becomes strained when they each fall in love with the same dashing but enigmatic American soldier. Rose’s daughter, Linda, has long sensed a secret in her mother’s past, but Rose has always resisted Linda’s questions, preferring to focus on the present. Years later Rose’s granddaughter, Stella, also becomes fascinated by the shroud of secrecy surrounding her grandmother’s life. Intent on unravelling the truth, she visits the now-ruined castle where Rose and Vivien grew up to see if she can find out more.
Castle of Dreams is a multi-layered story about sisters Rose and Vivien. They share a secret that is unravelled by a narrative spanning three generations. The story is a classic example of the after effects of secrets and the pain they can cause to loved ones (however well-meaning they were at the time).
To be honest, it took me a while to get into this book – I’m not a fan of overly long descriptions. However, once the secrets started unravelling, I could not put it down.
As a Queenslander, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes set during WWII. I must admit I didn’t know Australian men were so hostile to the American soldiers and am a little ashamed to be honest. I also plan to put Paronella Park, located near Cairns—which is the real life inspiration for the castle referred to in the book—on my long list of places I want to visit.
Aside from the aforementioned overly long descriptions, my only other critiques of Castle of Dreams are:
1) The repetition of facts being told by different characters; and,
2) The modern narrative involving the current generation (Stella) did not ring true. This is most likely a reflection of the fact the author is from an earlier generation.
Regardless, Castle of Dreams is an impressive debut. Enjoy!
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5). A copy of “Castle of Dreams” was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review.
About the author, Elise McCune:
Elise McCune was born in Sydney. In 1973, she moved to Perth, where she raised her two children, Lisa and Brett. Elise now lives by the bay in Melbourne. You can find more information about Elise and her writing on her website.
Connect with the publisher, Allen & Unwin – here
Mexican J.P. Combe has been proud to call Brisbane home for the past 15 years. Her hobbies are reading and drinking wine (preferably at the same time). She has the uncanny ability to make all things electronic stop working and frequently deletes things she didn’t mean to. When J.P’s not cursing technology, she can be found cooking unpalatable meals for her long suffering husband (the dog doesn’t mind) or helping their kids with homework – aka the blind leading the blind.
J.P’s debut novel was released earlier this year.