This lovely early review from the book trade journal 'Bookseller + PublisHING' has just been unlocked from the archives.

Palace of Tears (Julian Leatherdale, A&U)

26 February 2015   Unlocked content from the archive.

Fans of historical sagas will be satiated with this epic tale of family, mystery and passion set against the backdrop of an opulent Blue Mountains hotel. Facing her mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s, Lisa is spurred into delving into her family’s past by a historian researching the family’s former hotel. Based on the real Hydro Majestic, the hotel bears witness to history, from the Edwardian era to the Jazz Age, both World Wars, and into the 1950s, and brings to light Australia’s horrific treatment of ‘enemy aliens’ during the wars. The book, like the glamorous hotel it celebrates, brims with detail, amid great love affairs, tragedies, hidden identities, art, scandal, fame and bushfires. The picturesque Blue Mountains region also plays a vivid role. The third-person narrative and clear chapter headings make the plot easy to follow, despite the jumps in time required by this genre. Some reduction in detail may have been beneficial, and an unsolved element was puzzling. Minor quibbles aside, however, the tension climbs tightly towards a cracker of an ending. This book should attract a broad readership—its historical and local content is likely to appeal to a cross-section of fiction readers—and don’t be surprised to find it adapted for the screen. This is the first novel from Blue Mountains-based writer Julian Leatherdale.

Joanne Shiells is a former retail book buyer and editor of Books+Publishing



Category: Reviews




I could not ask for a more enthusiastic response from my German readers. Out of 15 books given away through the lovelybooks website there are now 14 reviews posted. Here is one from Buchswagger (excuse Google translation):

Simply indescribable!

The Cover:
I am simply in love with the cover! The whole design and presentation is wonderful.
The retro colors were perfectly selected, the lettering and i really like the flowers on the edge round the whole and made it perfect. The pictured girl also fits just great with the content. I really like it.

I found them all great. They were perfectly prepared and selected. The mixture of many different characters I liked very well. Everyone had something to him, some special powers. Everyone was simply unique. I could laugh with them, empathise, look ... the full program. It has given me great fun to read.

Writing style:
the style of writing has me completely convinced as he was wonderfully fluid to read. I could forget everything around me and be immersed in the history. He has made me much more than tied up and in the spell. The changing levels of time i have enjoyed very much.

I absolutely love it. I have this reception is not equal at the end of the book written, I wanted to sit the whole again and find the right words. The book deserves much more than my writing.I will keep this book will not easily forget that even now I can not really grasp in words. It was just great, in every way! The book I can only recommend from the heart, it was really worth it!


I am thrilled that my first review from Germany is so positive on the blog literaturschock - "A SUCCESSFUL DEBUT FROM AUSTRALIA".

"Julian Leatherdale has completely convinced with a mix of historical facts and a sensitive yet exciting fictional story... I empathise well with the characters...successful twists keep the voltage ... high...a very convincing has hardly left me while reading."

I include below an excerpt (for non-German speakers like myself) in a Google translate version (my apologies) to give some indication of this enthusiastic and thoughtful review.

A core theme of the novel is the situation of German immigrants and their descendants around the I. and II. World War. Even if many of German descent were now firmly integrated and naturalized, they were quickly stigmatized with the beginning of the war and soon interned as potential spies. The warehouse from which the author tells Julian Leatherdale, actually existed and is a sign of the rising anti-German sentiments that sparked in many English-speaking countries, especially the II. World War. That this was also the case in Australia, however, I have only learned by reading this book.

Mich Julian Leatherdale has completely convinced with its mix of historical facts and a sensitive, yet exciting fictional story. The story is in the third person from different angles, which represent different times tells and thus makes an overview possible. I could understand the different perspectives, I empathize well with the characters and thus also dive into the action. In addition, successful twists keep the voltage constant high so that kept really caught me the book ...

For me, a very convincing debut that has convinced me all along the line! It has hardly left me while reading.


Paula Xibberas' review for Tasmanian Times:

"This debut novel is a Gothic fiction masterpiece. The gothic genre... usually comprises elements such as ‘horror, romance and the demise of characters’ ironically perhaps with ‘a pleasing sort of terror’.

‘Palace of Tears’ includes these elements and more.  There is horror with a childhood tragedy, forbidden romances, the loss of some characters and the recovery of others, all with a suitable level of fear and terror. There are ghosts imagined and perhaps some real, a burning piano does so with drama and a visual artistic masterpiece is created.'

- See more at:


I have just read my 2015 book of the year; a book that kept me enthralled; a book that I actually deliberately read slowly because I didn’t want it to end; a book that moved me to my very core.

Julian Leatherdale has gone onto that small list of mine where I write the names of authors who I would read their shopping list if they published it.

I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.


"Palace of Tears is an absorbing novel filled with stories of love, betrayal and secrets... the reader uncovers the truth along with Lisa as well as coming to understand the motivations and personalties of the characters. This debut novel is a captivating mix of family saga, romance and historical fiction."

- Sally Murphy, children's writer, winner of WA Premier's Award 2010



"Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale is a blissful read....I would happily re-read this book any time. The characters and the storyline are nuanced and well written...The relationships between the characters also feel very real and have genuine emotional depth to them."

Miriam from Christchurch -' Create, Hope, Inspire' - 26 August, 2015

Starts At Sixty Review by Karen O'Brien-Hall

The time, and place, of the novel is so strongly established, I had to remind myself the people were fictional characters, not the people who built, owned and/or operated the Hydro Majestic. Julian cheekily uses similarities in name to great advantage, such as the fictional Meadow Springs for the real Medlow Bath, and Monika Fox for the name of the children’s book writer in the novel.

There are multiple twists in this family history, and the lush, strange, mystery persists until the end. The final denouement isn’t broadcast to the reader – as many scenarios as I imagined, I was not close. I recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good read with substance.

Write Note Reviews - by Monique Mulligan

 Leatherdale brings to life the grandeur and flamboyance of the pre-war and post-war era, when the Palace built its reputation on its glamorous parties and guests (including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dame Nellie Melba). This glamour provides a startling contrast to the dark secrets exposed through meticulous research by Lisa and hotel historian Luke, as it does to the ageless but dangerous beauty of the surrounding landscape. Leatherdale’s love for the mountains comes across clearly, matching his love for delving into the past and discovering new in the old. As a gothic-style novel, it works well, using the Palace as a brooding, secretive character, with plenty of gloom, fog, mystery and secrets to add to the atmosphere.


My Little Corner of the Literary World - Liana

If you enjoy watching shows like Downton Abbey or like a bit of mystery in the books you read, then I recommend that you pick this one up – especially if you also want to learn a little of the hidden history of Australia during the war. It was a fantastic read that’ll have you making your assumptions about the mystery of the Foxes and the Woods, and enjoying the ride through Family Ancestry that might also convince you to look into your own.

A wonderful first novel. And I hope Julian Leatherdale continues with a career as an author as he does know how to spin a tale and how to finish it off.

M/C Reviews: Culture and the Media - by Ian Lipke

The resulting tale stands tall among contemporary, historical writing as the author, his knowledge of the period encyclopaedic and his writing style original and fascinating, tells a wonderful story..

This book is all about secrets – hidden Australian history, family relationships, and illicit affairs. When Lisa begins to research the central question of Angie’s identity, she knows that what she might unearth might not be what she wants to know. As Leatherdale says, in his inimitably beautiful prose, “Secrets were as explosive as the undetonated hand grenades one heard about, hidden for decades under a hedge in an English country lane, waiting for some curious schoolboy to poke them with a stick” (126).

Palace of Tears is a Pandora’s box of secrets, a tale lovingly told by a master novelist, a fascinating tale of human strengths and follies. It is eminently satisfying.

Book'd Out - Shelleyrae

The tale is well structured, despite shifting between multiple perspectives and time periods. The story is well paced, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to maintain interest. Descriptions, particularly of the setting are vivid. Melding history and fiction, Palace of Tears is an entertaining novel and an impressive debut from Julian Leatherdale.

Newtown Review of Books - Jeannette Delamoir

This is Julian Leatherdale’s first novel, and he acknowledges the debt he owes to the real history of the Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath, built by department-store magnate Mark Foy. Leatherdale has researched and written for television series, and has a keen instinct for the novelistic potential of historical events. This story brings together the sophistication of global modernity and the Australian bush, and combines the glitter and glamour of consumer culture with the homeliness of a small regional community.