Kate Dowd has spent her whole life on her family’s New South Wales sheep farm, Amiens, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. In 1945, as the war in the Pacific draws to a close, she is content to look after the house and garden and wait for her soldier husband to return, while her father manages the farm. But trouble is looming as the long drought continues and her father’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. To save her beloved home, Kate will have to learn to stand up for herself and defy the expectations of every man in her life.
The Woolgrower’s Companion kept me up late, eager to find out what happened next as Kate struggles through one crisis after another. The challenges she faces from the casual racism and misogyny of the 1940s are portrayed realistically, without sensationalism. Along with Kate, Joy Rhoades brings a large cast of characters to vivid life, such as Luca, the handsome Italian POW, Daisy, the teenage Aboriginal housekeeper, and even Addison, the slimy bank manager. Their use of colloquial Australian English gives every character an authentic voice. The sheep farming advice quoted at the start of each chapter, and all the little details of daily farm life (mutton chops for breakfast every day, anyone?) combine to create a believable world that you won’t want to leave. And if you want to really set the scene, check the back of the book for the scone recipes and whip up a batch before you start reading!
4/5 Highly recommended as a book club read.