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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!!!
Scapegallows is based on the true life of Margaret Catchpole, a Suffolk woman of immense character and determination, who twice escaped the gallows in the 18th century.

The tale begins towards the end of Margaret's (known as Pegs) life in Australia with a heart stopping first chapter.
The plot then moves back to her early life (she was born in 1762) in...
Published on 31 Oct 2010 by Alice in Wonderland

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very well done, but somehow not very satisfying
If you like biographical historical novels of the grittier, more realistic sort then you'll probably like this.
It's the story of a real-life character, Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819), from her childhood in rural Suffolk to her death in an Australian penal colony, one of the few women of her time and class who left enough written evidence and stories behind to enable...
Published on 18 April 2012 by Bookwoman


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!!!, 31 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
Scapegallows is based on the true life of Margaret Catchpole, a Suffolk woman of immense character and determination, who twice escaped the gallows in the 18th century.

The tale begins towards the end of Margaret's (known as Pegs) life in Australia with a heart stopping first chapter.
The plot then moves back to her early life (she was born in 1762) in Sussex and chronicles her family life and love and steadfast devotion for the smuggler Will Laud, a reprobate, who brings her into contact with evil disreputable and dangerous men. To relate any more of the story would spoil the anticipation of what happens to Margaret.

Carol Birch's depiction of the filth, dirt, seediness and bustle of the 18th century are incredibly skilful. I was there!! I enjoyed every minute of this book - Carol Birch is an extremely a accomplished writer who holds the reader's attention unfailingly. Highly recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars historical fiction at its best, 16 Feb 2010
This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
This story is told in a natural, unselfconscious voice that involves the reader at once. I snatched `Scapegallows' up at the library, remembering that I'd read an excellent review of it some months ago. Now I shall order more of Carol Birch's books. Hey, you publicists - make her better-known. She is a wonderful story-teller. The account of the flood is just superb.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Catchpole, Heroine, 26 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Scapegallows (Hardcover)
Carol Birch has written the famous story about Margaret Catchpole, whose 200.th birthday in 2012 will no doubt bring a number of festivities in Ipswich, Suffolk and in Australia. The almost autobiographical way of telling it in the first person and sometimes even using dialect produce a homely atmosphere and, I am sure, it will end up as a film.
For some one familiar with Ipswich, it is a pleasant surprise that Carol Birch uses the original name Steeple Street in stead of Orwell Place , as it is known now in her account of the famous ride to Ipswich to summon help.
A wonderful story, gripping and seen from the heroin's point of view.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read...., 10 Feb 2009
This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
Well researched and very well written. 18th century rural Suffolk comes to life. Very exciting towards the end; I couldn't put it down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very well done, but somehow not very satisfying, 18 April 2012
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This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
If you like biographical historical novels of the grittier, more realistic sort then you'll probably like this.
It's the story of a real-life character, Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819), from her childhood in rural Suffolk to her death in an Australian penal colony, one of the few women of her time and class who left enough written evidence and stories behind to enable books to be written about her, both then and now.
It's been expertly researched and it's beautifully written: the author has invented an authentic-sounding voice for Margaret and we see everything through her eyes. There's an obsessive love affair at the heart of the story, with a smuggler hero and a heroine that escaped the gallows twice, so it could have been turned into a big romantic swashbuckler. But despite some exciting episodes, this is a sober and unvarnished depiction of what 18th century life was like, especially for people who teetered on the edges of society. It's about rural poverty, crime and punishment, and what could happen to women like Margaret who rejected the only two respectable options available at the time - family life or domestic service - and broke away in search of something new.
So why didn't I like it more? I definitely had problems with Margaret: everyone loves her, yet I couldn't get to grips with her at all. I didn't quite believe the love story either - just why was she so obsessed with this man? And although everything's described very well, parts of the book are very sketchy, particularly the chapters set in Australia which seem to be part of a different book altogether. I think I just wanted more emotion throughout - a few telling details here and there would have done, just to bring these people to life.
Not quite a four star read for me: it's good, just not my cup of tea. But what a great film or tv series it would make.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable!, 9 Dec 2008
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This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
I found this book completely 'unputdownable'. The descriptions of life at the time are vivid and the main character's emotions are easily felt. Living near to Ipswich made it feel even more alive! I would recommend this to anyone who loves 'based on true events' historical novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of an extraordinary woman, 18 Jan 2013
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Fiona Ford "walking bookworm" (south wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
A good read and on a subject not often writen about. Made me want to read more Carol Birch books and more of the history of women suffering transportation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feisty heroine - piracy and misadventure, 20 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Scapegallows (Hardcover)
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 obviously been living for some time and the main story is her reminiscences of her youth back in England and how she came to fall off the straight and narrow to be transported.
Although I'd have greatly liked to have read much more about how she settled once in Australia rather than the sketchy account of that yet an in depth background, I found it very readable and enjoyable and it reminded me somewhat of Slammerkin and Remember Me and having recently read and enjoyed Jamrach's Menagerie I think this would appeal to anyone who has enjoyed any of these titles.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Condition, 6 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
I bought this book for a penny. Expected it to be well worn. Perfect book no signs of damage spine still perfect.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not enduring, 20 Sep 2012
This review is from: Scapegallows (Paperback)
I found this in a second-hand bookshop and bought it because it's exactly the kind of historical fiction that I usually enjoy, and because something about it reminded me of 'Slammerkin' by Emma Donoghue which I loved (and which is certainly a five star read). I enjoyed this too - it's an easy read, and I certainly wanted to know how things turned out, but for some reason at the end I felt a slight sense of "was that it?". Carol Birch has created a lovely voice for Margaret, and is just brilliant at dropping you into her world (for example, seeing beggars being flayed on a freezing street corner, or being taken to a hanging for entertainment), but for me something was missing and I can't put my finger on what it was. It might have been the constant "waiting for her man" which didn't entirely strike me as in character. I do recommend it though and since I'd never heard of Carol Birch before, will also look out for other books by her. If I could give 3.5 stars I would - it's just not quite up there for four for me.
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Scapegallows
Scapegallows by Carol Birch (Paperback - 3 July 2008)
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