Castle of Dreams was published by Allen and Unwin in April 2016
The castle in my story was inspired by castle ruins in the far north Queensland rainforest. At the beginning of the twentieth century Jose Paronella built a Spanish castle in the rainforest. I visited Paronella Park some years ago and the magically setting stayed with me and eventually became part of my story. Castle of Dreams is a dual narrative story: set in wartime Brisbane, two sisters. Vivien and Rose grew up in the castle but 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 Rose and Vivien grew up in to see if it she can find out more.
Captivating and compelling, Castle of Dreams is about love, secrets, lies – and the perils of delving into the past . . .
Book Club Discussion Questions for Castle of Dreams.
- The author uses a nonlinear story structure ( present day chapters alternating with chapters set in the past) for Castle of Dreams. Do you feel the past can influence the present? Were you engaged immediately or did it take you a while to feel comfortable with the structure?
- The author writes about Brisbane and the north Queensland rainforest during WW2. Were you aware of the two nights of street fighting along the Brisbane streets now known as The Battle of Brisbane? Did you enjoy the author using a historical event as a backdrop for a fictional narrative? And how well do you think the author captured war-time Brisbane?
- What did you know about Paronella Park (where the castle ruins in the north Queensland rainforest became the author’s inspiration for Castillo de Suenos the fictional castle in Castle of Dreams) before you read the book?
- In the modern day narrative, Stella Bailey is a photographer, did you enjoy reading about her love for her chosen career? Where there any scenes relating to this that you particularly enjoyed?
- What did you think about how the author wrote about domestic violence?
- Rose and Vivien are close sisters but when they both fall in love with Robert Shine an American soldier stationed in Brisbane in WW2 during the Pacific War they become estranged. Are their actions justified? Did you prefer one sister to the other and why? Do you think that as the years passed they may have once again thought of each other in a loving way? If so, what examples can you find in the book that makes you think this?
- The book is full of secrets that are slowly discovered. Did you guess any of them before the final chapter?
- What did you think about Robert Shine? And how do you feel about how his life turned out?
- The theme running through the novel is one of light: Robert Shine’s name, the art of photography, and the filtered light in the rainforest. Did you notice this? How important is it to like a character at the heart of a story, and do your feelings about a character affect your feelings about the story as a whole?
- Is the ending satisfying? If you could ask the author a question about the book, what would you ask?
I hope you enjoyed reading Castle of Dreams.