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The Opal Dragonfly

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  175 ratings  ·  39 reviews
"Miss Isobel Clara Macleod, youngest of the seven children of Major Sir Angus Hutton Macleod, Surveyor-General of the colony of New South Wales, had the singular misfortune to know that at seven o'clock that morning her father was going to die."

September, 1851. Sydney, city of secrets and gossip. Seventeen-year-old Isobel Macleod is determined to save her father because sh
Paperback, 582 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by Allen & Unwin
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Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books
The Opal Dragonfly, the second novel written by Julian Leatherdale and has been eagerly anticipated by this reader. Leatherdale’s latest book is an intricate Australian saga, with gothic undertones that takes its inspiration from historical architecture, real life figures in Australia’s history books and pivotal events from times past. The Opal Dragonfly promises any reader who selects this tale a finely detailed novel, full of emotion, drama and a richly t
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I generally try to avoid books that are over 400 pages, so for me to gleefully jump on a book that has almost 600 pages is a big indication as to how much I was looking forwards to reading this latest book by Julian Leatherdale. I had very high expectations let me tell you as his first book PALACE OF TEARS was my joint book of the year in 2015. Julian Leatherdale did not let me down!!!
THE OPAL DRAGONFLY starts off very innocently, Isobel decides to save her father from certain death and rushes
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A truly stunning work of fiction as one expects from an author such as Julian Leatherdale.

Meticulous research has been afforded to the novel and the complexities of this information were presented flawlessly and in exquisite detail.

Plot development was strong throughout and paced in a manner that ensured your continued interest. Bearing in mind this is a difficult thing to achieve in a novel that is so heavily dependent upon fact and history. This alone is a testament to Leatherdale's experience
Jun 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Historical fiction isn’t really my thing. But I gave it a(nother) shot with this. It’s not that it’s a terrible book; for the right audience it’d be great.
It just wasn’t for me. The plot didn’t grab me, nor did the characters.
Lyndall Rae
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Allen and Unwin for sending me an uncorrected proof copy of this amazing book!
When I first received it in the mail I was a little put off by how long it actually was. But then I couldn’t put it down once I started. This is a book you can read over and over again.
I really liked that the author incorporated non-fiction events into this story which further opened my eyes to the real life tragedies of the indigenous in the 1800’s.
Everybody needs to read The Opal Dragonfly. Best seller ha
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Thanks to Goodreads and Allen & Unwin for my copy of this novel. I have mixed feelings about this book so I’ve ended up middle of the road with my final rating.
I think the setting and time were captured well and the cast of characters were broad and generally engaging. The descriptions of daily life, the public events, political disagreements and social society of Sydney were fascinating and enjoyable to read about.
My two major difficulties were the character of the young Isobel and the handlin
Ash | Wild Heart Reads
The Opal Dragonfly follows Isobel Clara Macleod, belonging to one of Sydney's elite families. Spanning decades this book follows the fall of the Macleod family with secrets threatening to tear them apart and plunge the family into disgrace.

The Opal Dragonfly opens with Isobel who, aware her father is taking part in a duel that will likely see him dead, takes drastic measures in an attempt to save him. But her actions that morning will change everything.

Leatherdale paints a very vivid picture of
Alicia Huxtable
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaway-wins
Where do I start? I loved the fact that the author incorporated actual historical facts into her fantastical work of fiction. I was completely drawn into the lives of Isobel and her family as they went through the rise and eventual fall.....particularly Isobel herself. There was one part that completely shocked me, even though I felt something was coming. The Opal Dragonfly was truly a magnificent read.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book! Darkness, deceit, secrets upon secrets, betrayals, jealously...but all the while a definite page-turner. Julian Leatherdale, I have waited for this your second novel since I first read Palace of Tears. And like Palace of Tears, this book is a journey that is an absolute pleasure. Thank you. I recommend this book, it is a huge one, but very well worth it.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
I listened to disc 1 of the audio version and by the time I was one chapter into disc 2 I damn near fell asleep at the wheel of the car. Boring in the extreme.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
After reading this book, I have an unusual appreciation for the word ‘farce.’ To support the statement, this is perhaps one of my favourite lines from the book:

‘She had persuaded her aunt to relax her moral guardianship and this farce was the result.’

It just adds something. I have to make a note to use it more frequently later on.

Anyway, onto the review:

Plotline and Characters

My perpetual fear when it comes to reading, particularly regarding books which are based on historical fact and events, i
The Opal dragonfly is a long book with a lot of fascinating historical detail about the growth period of the Sydney colony during the 1800s. The protagonist is Isobel, the youngest daughter of the surveyor-general of NSW. She grows up in a life of distinct privilege in the finest house in the colony - Rosemount (based on Elizabeth Bay House). The story starts promising, with Isobel risking shame in order to stop her father from dying in a duel. However it takes a good portion of the book to actu ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
‘The Opal Dragonfly' is a historical family saga novel that provides a really interesting part fact/part fictional insight into early Australian colonial life. The book is primarily set in Sydney and the descriptive account of early colonial life, the treatment of Indigenous peoples, the architecture and the whole social structure of that era is well researched and written.

The story revolves around the Macleod family. Major Macleod is Surveyor General for the colony and with his family of 3 son
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Set in Sydney, Australia in the mid-1800s, The Opal Dragonfly recounts the financial and social descent of a wealthy, privileged family. Described by Leatherdale as a work of fiction with its roots in historical research, his second novel recreates the sights, sounds and social tensions of early colonial Sydney. Whilst firmly set amongst the governing class of gentry, professionals and military personnel, we encounter all types of inhabitants, including the dispossessed indigenous peoples, pardo ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book in a giveaway here on Goodreads, so I was very excited when the book arrived. My first thought was "it's huge!". My proof copy is 570 + pages and I initially thought it would take me ages to get through it all. But once I started reading I got drawn into the world of Isobel and her family, and the tragedies that seemed to follow them. Although the main time frame of the book actually only took place over a few years, it seemed there were so many even ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
I received this as a Goodreads giveaway from Allen and Unwin , and what a read. It is a very long book 573 pages but from the stunning cover then the opening chapters I was soon enveloped in the Macleod family saga.
The main character Isobel is a child at the start of the book but the reader walks alongside her as she reaches maturity and has a child of her own.
The opal dragonfly brooch first gifted to Winnie , Isobel's Mum, who in turn gifts it Isobel, appears to bring the family a great deal of
Christine Cooper
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale, thanks to Goodreads and Allen &Unwin for the opportunity. Set in the middle 1800 s in Sydney Town it is a mixture I think of fiction and non fiction. The descriptions of the community and landscape was so real. This book unlike a lot of early Sydney I've read it was set more with the rich and privileged than the poor and down trodden. Isobel is the youngest of seven children the last of three daughters after their brothers left, loved an ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received Julian Leatherdale's novel, 'The Opal Dragonfly' through a Goodreads 'Giveway'.

'The Opal Dragonfly' is a historical fiction novel that delivers a superb insight into what the early colonisation of Australia (mostly focusing on Sydney) might have looked or felt like.

Isabel Clara Macleod is a tragic figure but is both a stubborn and courageous main protagonist. Her story is an emotional rollercoaster ride that will captivate your imagination and ignite a passion for the Aboriginal peopl
Carrie Kablean
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Julian's novel is a wonderful journey through Sydney in early colonial times. It centres around Isabel Macleod, youngest of seven children to the then Surveyor-General of Sydney and paints a marvellous picture of what the Emerald City must have been like in the 1850s (and beyond). The prose is lush and the historical detail is lightly woven through. I love books like this, that tell you things you didn't know previously about the history of the place you live and also entertain you with a great ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, present, arcs
[Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the ARC.]

I met Julian Leatherdale in my former life as marketing coordinator for a book recommendations website. At the time, Palace of Tears had just been published and I think he was unprepared to find a fangirl in the midst of an authors lunch.

Like Palace of Tears, The Opal Dragonfly evokes an Australia lost to the past, this time set in the streets of Sydney. This sense of familiarity, coupled with Leatherdale’s intricate storytelling, makes for a very enjoyable
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A story set in Sydney in the early days of its settlement, the amount of research undertaken by the author is very evident. Many historic figures feature, albeit often with altered names. It is easy to see how difficult life would have been for a non conformist young lady in such a straight laced, judgemental society.

Although the circumstances surrounding the end of Isobel's first marriage seemed a little melodramatic, the bulk of the plot was engaging and believable.

The main characters were th
Dec 11, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a well researched and detailed story of 1850s Sydney. It was interesting to read the sources for this story at the end of the book. For me some of the detailed paragraphs disrupted the flow of the story, but it was an interesting tale of a family and society. Society was regimented and the list of events that could disgrace a family and be shunned were numerous - and so it was for the Macleod family and for Isobel in particular. Isobel grew up in a mansion on the foreshore of Sydney Har ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: next-in-line
Listened to the audiobook. I like Aust history but i struggled with this book. Not sure if i should rate it 1 or 2. I fell asleep plenty of times while listening. Struggled with most of it. Definately full of drama... but not my kind of drama and it was painfully slow and extended. I dont like too much drama. I just couldnt wait to finish it off so i kept forwarding and skipping. I dont think i would have liked it any better if i had read it. Not captivating at all. Not for me, sorry.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received an advanced copy of this book and I loved it! I felt drawn to Isobel, the main character, right from the beginning and felt her pain as she searched for her place in a world that was seldom kind to her.

The writing is beautiful, the mysteries are intriguing and the characters come alive as the story unfolds.

Loved it!
Robyn Coyle
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A+++++ What a fantastic read. Wow, this book definitely had it all. I have read some great books this year, but this one outdoes them all. I thought the ending came around too quickly as the storyline flowed so well - but then missed a lot of years (filled in by narrative of a daughter). I was seeing another book in the making!!!! But overall, absolutely fantastic.
Robyn Gibson
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The research on Australian history to write this book must have been amazing. Based on the life of Surveyor-General of New South Wales, Australia and his family. 582 pages is not easy to read in bed but definitely worthwhile. Loved it!
Julian Leatherdale also wrote Palace of Tears was a wonderful read.
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Historical fiction set in Sydney during the mid/late 1800's. Followed the trials and tribulations of the MacLeod family centred around the youngest daughter Isobel. I enjoyed the coverage of daily life in Sydney but otherwise there was too much sentimentality from my perspective. If it hadn't been a book club choice, I probably wouldn't have finished it. ...more
Loretta Bush
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I won this book through Goodreads. It's not my usual genre of book, but actually enjoyed it. It portrayed the era and times very well. Made me glad I didn't live then!! Very descriptive, but also had a plot that rolled along. Would definitely recommend it. ...more
Short and Sweet Reviews by Sam
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book from the giveaways page on goodreads. The book is well written and the characters easy to love. I like the inclusion of historical facts and events in the book. Overall it’s not a book I would ordinarily have bought but it is definitely worth a read :)
Wineskin Sophia
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m surprised to find out he’s a male author as the book is packed with strong emotions and detailed descriptions. A good insight into Australian history ( the Lost generation). Can see that there was adequate research done.
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Julian Leatherdale’s first love was the theatre. On graduation from a theatre studies degree at the University of NSW, he wrote lyrics for four satirical cabarets and a two-act musical. He discovered a passion for popular history as a staff writer, researcher and photo editor for Time-Life’s Australians At War series. He later researched and co-wrote two Film Australia-ABC documentaries Return to ...more

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