I’m delighted to be a part of the blog tour for The Woolgrower’s Companion, and sharing my review with you today. This title publishes in paperback tomorrow and needs to be a part of your summer reading list.
Australia 1945. Until now Kate Dowd has led a sheltered life on her family’s sprawling sheep station but, with her father’s health in decline, the management of the farm is increasingly falling to her.
Kate is rising to the challenge when the arrival of two Italian POW labourers disrupts everything – especially when Kate finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Luca Canali.
Then she receives devastating news. The farm is near bankrupt and the bank is set to repossess. Given just eight weeks to pay the debt, Kate is now in a race to save everything she holds dear.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend you read this historical drama set against the backdrop of WWII. The war is coming to an end, but for Kate, the fight is just beginning. Rhoades’ writing brings this story to life in a captivating way, through her detailed descriptions of the climate, so atmospheric, the political stance of society and the historical accuracy – I had no idea Italians were POW in Australia. What really stood out for me was the strength of Rhoades writing, how she handled sensitive subject matter, such as Kate’s father’s mental health, and the treatment of the Aboriginal people, among other things – it was never dramatic or sensationalised, instead it felt like a true account. One I believed in, one I was invested in.
Kate is a brilliant character, while I loved the setting of this novel, The Woolgrower’s Companion is very much Kate’s coming-of-age – in love and in life. There’s a kindness and a determination to her character, and as the story progresses you quietly see Kate come into her own. I say quietly because much of this novel is subtle, it’s realistic and has you believing in it. Kate is human, and you see her flaws, but you root for her, to save the farm, you also root for her happiness. I’m not a huge fan of romance but I loved the way it was written in this novel, like the rest of this novel it was subtle – a forbidden love, where the risk is high – from the offset, you’re hoping for a happy ending for Kate, but nothing is simple in love and war…
The issues of race and class were expertly handled in this novel; it was interesting to see how Kate’s character evolved within these constraints. Also to see her fight against the patriarchy, for no one believed a woman could save, and run, a farm. Equally interesting was the character of Daisy, a young Aboriginal maid, I’ll say nothing more about her character, as it’s for you to discover for yourself, just know my heart was with Daisy throughout.
The Woolgrower’s Companion took me by surprise, in that I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. You can see the thought that went into penning it, the care that went into its delivery, the heart that brought it to life. It is an extremely impressive debut. There’s so much more I could talk about regarding the plot, but I think you should just read the book and discover it for yourself. The Woolgrower’s Companion is a coming-of-age novel, a novel of survival, a novel of forbidden love, a novel of endurance, and most importantly, a novel you need to read this summer!
*My thanks to the Joy Rhoades, Sian Devine and Vintage for providing me with a copy of this book and inviting me to participate in the blog tour*
*In her own words* I grew up in a small town in the bush in Queensland, Australia. I spent my time with my head in a book, or outdoors – climbing trees, playing in dry creek beds, or fishing for yabbies in the railway dam under the big sky. Some of my favourite memories were visiting my grandmother’s sheep farm in rural New South Wales where my father had grown up. She was a fifth generation grazier, a lover of history, and a great and gentle teller of stories. My childhood gave me two passions: a love of the Australian landscape and a fascination with words and stories.
I left the bush at 13 when I went to boarding school in Brisbane. I stayed on there to study law and literature at the University of Queensland. After, my work as a lawyer took me first to Sydney and then all over the world, to London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and New York. But I always carried in my head a strong sense of my childhood: the people, the history, the light and the landscape. Those images have never left me and they would eventually become The Woolgrower’s Companion. It’s a story I’ve felt I had to tell.
I currently live in London with my husband and our two young children. But I miss the Australian sky.
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