Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Coldwater (Ballantine Reader's Circle)” as Want to Read:
Coldwater (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Coldwater (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  177 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
A beautiful and mesmerizing debut, Coldwater is the tale of three sisters, the dangers of isolation, and the explosive repercussions when seemingly absolute power is challenged.

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Wolf live on Coldwater, a penal colony off the coast of Australia, where their father, Captain Wolf, rules the household with the same unyielding sternness he imposes on
Paperback, 293 pages
Published July 30th 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Coldwater, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Coldwater

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I loved the idea of this book! Mardi McConnochie deserves much praise for turning her curiosity about the elusive Bronte sisters into a work of fiction. She plunks the literary trio onto the island of Coldwater, a penal colony off the coast of Australia. The sisters live there with Captain Wolf, their unyielding father. Theirs is a life of isolation, with time spent on household chores, cooking, and sewing. Their fates are soon changed as each of the sisters grow weary of their stagnant existenc ...more
Lily Mulholland
Another book I really wanted to like, but came away from disenchanted. It's a gothic tale of three young girls trapped on an island that's literally a prison - a convict prison in early white settlement Australia. Told in the vein of the Bronte sisters (of whom the author is apparently a great fan), the novel read unfortunately almost as fan fiction. The names of the key protagonists are all from history, there are nods to Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice, as well as the hystrionics of Wuther ...more
I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel with a premise quite like that of Coldwater, a book that takes real-life historical figures and reimagines them in a different setting. (I know there’s such a thing as “alternate-universe fan fiction,” which is basically what this is, but I’ve never seen that done in a serious literary novel.) The intriguing idea behind Mardi McConnochie’s book is: what if Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, daughters of a Yorkshire clergyman in the mid-1800s, were instead Cha ...more
JG (The Introverted Reader)
Author Mardi McConnochie imagines what the lives of the Brontë sisters would have been like if they had grown up on a remote island/penal colony off the coast of Australia. In this fictional tale, their father is the warden of the colony, paranoid to the point of madness and with a giant God-complex. He makes life hard for everyone on the island, including his daughters. Charlotte is the sensible one, Emily is overly sensitive with a large streak of the fey in her, and Anne is caught somewhere b ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-work, australian
I wanted to like this book - because the idea is so fascinating (what if instead of existing in isolation in England, the Bronte sisters lived in isolation in colonial Australia? Discuss.)

In fact, my suspicion is that this might have been a higher degree by research thesis (where a student will write a creative piece and then apply theory to create an exigetical dissertation by way of explanation.)

So, I read fiction to get away from academia (as I usually read in bed when I've been marking stud
May 12, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mardi McConnochie has had a life-long fascination with the lives of the Bronte sisters and their repressed lives with their father on the Yorkshire moors. Using their story as a starting point, Coldwater is the story of three sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, and the dangers of isolating and dominating adult children. The novel is set in a penal colony off the coast of Australia where the sister's father, Captain Edward Wolf, is the Governor of the prison and attempts to run his household wit ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was confused by this book... At first I thought it was supposed to be about the Bronte sisters, because that's what it alluded to in the description. While curious that I'd never known they were Australian, I thought perhaps Mardi was just using their real lives and making up a story to go with what was known about them. However, aside from the first names of the family it seems to have nothing to do with them. The timeline of their lives and deaths didn't even match up. I don't understand why ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A suspenseful, beautifully written novel for young adults/adults, where the lives of the Bronte sisters are transposed into a parallel historical world - of 19th century convict Australia. Here, Charlotte, Anne and Emily are the daughters of Captain Wolf, a man of steel resolve yet great love for his family. The 3 sisters are held in thrall by their military father, who from 1839 is the governor of a brutal, island penal colony off the NSW coast, where only the most hardened colonial convicts ar ...more
Ironical Dins
While I ultimately enjoyed this book, I found it to be kind of an odd duck. The author (and this not a spoiler by any means) used the Bronte sisters as her main characters, but places them in an Australian penal colony. The historical circumstances of the penal colony are factual, from her note at the end. But I don't really understand what the aim was in using the Brontes' on this island? To attract a certain readership, perhaps? Maybe an intellectual/academic exercise in examining the colonial ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This quirky bit of Bronte fan fiction starts out promising and then quickly dissolves, caving in on itself and turning into a fairly typical and not terribly compelling romance complete with cardboard men and improbable uses of Chekov's gun over and over again. By the end of the book I found myself wishing it would just end already, and that's saying something considering it's not very long. Nothing feels particularly well-rounded or thought out, plot points from the actual Bronte novels don't f ...more
Jun 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy historical novels, learning about other places
This is an historical novel about a widower, the Commandant of a remote Australian penal colony, and his three daughters, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne. The three young women are writers, in a tale suggestive somewhat of the Bronte sisters, the famous English authors. Written in the style of a Victorian novel it details the dangers of isolation and the explosive repercussions when the seemingly absolute power of the Commandant is challenged. As with all Victorian novels, there is a fair share of un ...more
Loved this book. The idea of your dad being a prison warden and raising three daughters on this island, just is different, and I like different.
I liked the way the book made me wonder about the fathers character. Was he just doing his best or getting very carried away?
I have three daughters and one is named Emily so of course I pictured what these girls were really like.
It held my interest the whole way through!
Sep 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be sad and true to the time. Submission, loyalty, suffering all must have been felt by the women of those days. The creative mind so wanting to be allowed the opportunity to be expressed and to feel happy and joyful about that expression. This book told a great tale and I was riveted at the hope that things were going to turn out so good for the three sisters, in spite of the odds. Interesting story with a twist about the Infamous Bronte family.
Jun 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: how-people-think
Three sisters and their father the Governor of a convict island off the coast of Australia which is part of a penal colony. Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Captain Wolf. Interesting reconstruction of the Bronte family. Wonderfully written and becomes a psychological thriller when Emily falls in love with one of the convicts, Anne falls in love with "the Diver", Charlotte tries to save them all, and the Captain tries to control them all.
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Också detta en mycket intressant och bra bok. Språket var väl inte tipp-topp konstant, men en bra handling och fina karaktärsbeskrivningar. Gillar starkt att den är inspirerad av systrarna Charlotte, Emily och Annes liv - inte allra minst för att jag tycker att de är helt fantastiska författare alla tre!
Jolynn Powers
interesting setting and time period.. a island prison off the coast of Australia and a family that lives and works their. Found the idea interesting full of interaction between the family and the criminals.. but just to slow and romantic for me.Criminals are painted to be Heroes and a love affair happens.. fell a sleep reading this every time I picked it up
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A diary of sorts, leaving hints about the famous Bronte sisters as the author spends quite another tale. I especially loved the way Emily wrote--lots of dashes. Emily's description of the dream state (pages 95-97) was one piece of perfect literature--well done.
Antoinette Buchanan
Wanted to like this but I gave it a hundred pages and even though there was promise of something happening, by then I just didn't care. This may say more about my attention span than than the quality of the book but I don't need further education in penal NSW and the rest didn't engage me enough.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This story never quite gets off the ground. It's supposed to be based upon the Bronte sisters, but I never quite got the feeling of a decent plot. It has interesting points, and the setting is unique, but overall, the story wasn't strong.
K.M. Steele
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read and an interesting rewrite of Wuthering Heights
Carrie Z
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 daughters live on prison island; father I prison governor.
Nov 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting, well written twist on the lives of the Bronte sisters. Be sure to read the author's interview at the end.
Sep 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a made up story about what the life of the Bronte sisters might have been like.

OK book.
Beth Shields-Szostak
1st edition US
rated it really liked it
Feb 13, 2009
rated it really liked it
Aug 14, 2010
rated it liked it
Oct 06, 2008
rated it liked it
Sep 11, 2009
Pam Pert
rated it really liked it
May 26, 2008
rated it did not like it
Sep 20, 2008
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Confusion 1 4 Jan 31, 2009 02:06PM  
  • The Barrakee Mystery (Bony, #1)
  • Mates at Billabong (Billabong, #2)
  • Last Drinks
  • Maurice Guest
  • Coonardoo
  • The Eye of the Storm
  • Big Night Out
  • The Return of the Earl (Botany Bay, #1)
  • The Hamilton Case
  • 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2011
  • A Child's Anthology of Poetry
  • Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy
  • The Ninth Avatar
  • The Great World
  • The Family at Misrule (Woolcots, #2)
  • Ash Road
  • Wrack
  • Utopian Man

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »