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Scapegallows

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  146 ratings  ·  26 reviews
New South Wales, 1817. Margaret Catchpole is stranded at a settler's homestead as the floodwater draws in, and she finds herself facing death - as she has several times before.She looks back over her life - the complex and stormy partnership with Will Laud, a 'hell-born-babe', that led her into the world of smuggling and in to a double life. After Will is forced to flee th ...more
Hardcover, 435 pages
Published by Virago Press (UK) (first published March 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Beadyjan
I really enjoyed this fact based fictional account of the life of a woman called Margaret Catchpole who works as a maid and has a boyfriend who is a smuggler, events conspire to eventually get her transported to Australia after narrowly escaping being hanged for her foolhardiness rather than criminality. She's quite a feckless heroine and quite a flawed character with a temper and poor decision making skills but this makes her all the more real.
The books begins in Australia where she has obvious
...more
Laura
Even if this book is based on the real life of Margaret Catchpole, the story didn't convince me.

A reference to this book is The History of Margaret Catchpole (London, 1845) written by Reverend Richard Cobbold.

There is another biography of her, "Margaret Catchpole, her life and her letters - The story of a woman who became a legend", written by Laurie Chater Forth.
Velvetink
The story of Margaret Catchpole born into a smuggler's world in Suffolk 1762. A true story. Margaret leads a double life that brings about her downfall, sentenced to hang not once but twice she is transported to Australia with other convicts.
Yas
Initial impressions

This premise of this book captured my interest straight away, being quite a big fan of historical fiction but not yet having encountered it of the type written about in this book, I wanted to give it a try. Straight away it became apparent that the writing in this book by Carol Birch was very similar to Rose Tremain, particularly in her novel "The colour". That being one of my favourite books from last year encouraged me and I believed this would be an excellent book even ear
...more
Sarah
Based on the true story of Margaret Catchpole, born into a smuggler's world in Suffolk in the late 1700's. She becomes the valued servant of a weathly, liberal and kind family, The Cobbolds. She was also the friend of sailors and smugglers. She was in love with Will Laud, a 'free-trader' (smuggler). The heroine is a passionate and supremely capable girl brought to life by the Author from, one can imagine, her research into the bare facts from archives. In her life,she saves the lives of children ...more
Wendy
Dec 07, 2014 Wendy added it
My copy is staring at me from the sofa as I havent been able to offload it back at the library yet. I can understand now why it was last taken out in 2008. The only good thing I can say about this book was that it is in large print which makes it easier for me to read when I'm falling asleep. I tried really hard to give it a go but found it to be tiresome, uninteresting and difficult to visualise.

Choosen by my book group I was very disappointed by this and didn't manage to finish it. I would giv
...more
Andree
Based on fact and nicely written. What a gal!
Margaret Catchpole was clearly a survivor and much liked.
Unusual to get some history on one of the lower orders - which gives us an idea of the impact she made.
A Good Read, particularly if you're interested in history (Ipswich local, 19th Century or Australian invasion)
Annie
I loved this book. Excellent fiesty main character - based on a true story. Loved the details about life in England in 18th Century.
Kathee
Based on the life of the real Margaret Catchpole, this historical fiction book was easy, fun reading and very engaging. Margaret was born into a poor,close-knit family but went astray trying to help her lover, a smuggler. She escaped capital punishment twice and was sent to Australia instead where she made a life for herself and is still remembered there today with a hospital wing and other things named after her.
Sarah
Weirdly I gave up on this book after the first chapter originally but a year or so later I decided to try again and it was brilliant, could not put it down.
Tom Johnson
one can note quite a bit of Jamrach's Menagerie in Scapegallows (2007) - Carol Birch is a first rate story teller - Jamrach's was a level above but by no means is that a knock against Scapegallows - breathes life into history she does - creates a world inhabited by sympathetic characters. The Naming of Eliza Quinn (2005) is next. That’s what's so nice about finding a good author - helps fill a February
David Willcox
Fascinating, and full of historical detail, Carol Birch certainly does her historical research and this novel, based on the true life story of Margaret Catchpole, who was reprieved twice from hanging and finally transported to Australia where she remained until she died. Most of the book tells the story of how her love finally led to her undoing. a tale of smugglers and the wealthy. well worth reading
Abigail
I was a bit disappointed. The title and "blurb" implied it was all about her "escaping the gallows" - but most of the book was about her life as being part of a community with strong ties to smugglers. It started off well, and maybe with a different title would have been better. Maybe a bit more about her life in Austrailia as well.....
Jo Barton
This books is based on the true story of Margaret Catchpole, who was born into a smugglers world in Suffolk in the 1700's. She leads a troubled life and is sentenced to hang, but escaping the gallows,she was transported to Australia for life.
I enjoyed this story, it's a well written historical narrative ,with a likeable, if foolhardy ,heroine.
Heather
I read this rollocking yarn without realising it was based strongly on fact. I would have liked to hear more about her life in Australia, but thoroughly enjoyed the tale of how she got here. Although I'd never heard of her, I can see why Margaret Catchpole is still remembered in Suffolk and in the Hawkesbury region of NSW.
Alison
A friend at church passed this on and I'm glad she did. I didn't realise til the end that it was based on a true story. I enjoyed the detail of life in a different time - I would just have liked to know more about Margaret's life in Australia.
Gill
I didn't realise until the end that it was based on a true story though, obviously, greatly fictionalised. It was a good story, well told and gave a vivid impression of everyday life in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth centuries.
Shang
An interesting read! Very sad ;( and also twisted and slightly cruel. But I guess, those were the days! Overall, this wasn't a book I would usually read but it was EXTREMELY helpful for my history assignment!
Erin
I love a good historical fiction book- especially when they are about fascinating countries like Australia. I liked this one so much that I gave it to my mom.
Tara
Great story, based on fact - some excellent writing from Carol Birch though in the end I wasn't totally convinced by her main character.
Kay Wells
Based on a true story set in the 1700's. Smuggler Margaret Catchpole. Would read another by author.
Jay
It has everything...English servants and pirates and deportation to Australia.
Pawneet
One of the finest books I have ever read.
Phyllis
Story of a survivor.
Christine
Just finished this book about the life of Margaret Catchpole who was transported to Australia for various crimes commited in Suffolk at end 1700s / early 1800s. I didn't realise it was based on the life of a real person which may explain why the narrative drags in the middle section. The start was very promising and the end equally interesting so worth a go although I didn't feel that the central relationship between Margaret and Will was particularly convincing and the John Luff character was m ...more
Judith
Judith added it
May 13, 2015
Corinne
Corinne marked it as to-read
May 05, 2015
Emily
Emily marked it as to-read
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ShyPageSniffer
ShyPageSniffer marked it as to-read
Apr 30, 2015
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Carol Birch was born in Manchester and attended Keele University. The author of eleven novels, she won the 1988 David Higham Award for the Best First Novel of the Year for Life in the Palace, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize with The Fog Line in 1991, and she was long-listed for the 2003 Booker Prize for Turn Again Home. Her novel Jamrach's Menagerie was long-listed for the Orange Prize 2011. She ...more
More about Carol Birch...
Jamrach's Menagerie The Naming of Eliza Quinn Turn Again Home Little Sister Come Back Paddy Riley

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