The Woolgrower’s Companion is set in New South Wales during 1945. Twenty-three-year-old Kate lives on her father’s homestead where they farm sheep and cattle. The book opens with them waiting at the train station for two Italian prisoners of war. They will be much needed cheap labour.
Kate’s own father fought in the first world war. His reward was his grazier’s plot of land. But times have been hard; Kate’s mother died. Whilst years of drought caused debts to build. On top of this Kate fears that her father is becoming forgetful and his behaviour is sometimes erratic.
The storyline follows the day-to-day hardships of an Australian homestead. This includes the social restrictions of the times and harsh treatment of both women and native Aboriginal people. At the heart of the book is one women’s journey from daughter to manager of a farm, at a pivotal time in history.
There were plenty examples of the carefully researched details of the era included in the narrative. These were interesting to a point. But, for me, they left little room for the deeper emotions of the characters, or layering of descriptions about the land. I thought the opening scenes of the book were really good, I felt the heat and the sun that baked the surroundings, but later I felt none of the endless dry heat and the constant dust, nor the real desperation for rain after years of drought.
Overall, an interesting setting with good historical detail, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
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Kate Dowd’s mother raised her to be a lady but she must put away her white gloves and pearls to help save her family’s sheep farm in New South Wales.
It is 1945, the war drags bitterly on and it feels like the rains will never come again. All the local, able-bodied young men, including the husband Kate barely knows, have enlisted and Kate’s father is struggling with his debts and his wounds from the Great War. He borrows recklessly from the bank and enlists two Italian prisoners of war to live and work on the station.
With their own scars and their defiance, the POWs Luca and Vittorio offer an apparent threat to Kate and Daisy, the family’s young Aboriginal maid. But danger comes from surprising corners and Kate finds herself more drawn to Luca than afraid of him.
Scorned bank managers, snobbish neighbours and distant husbands expect Kate to fail and give up her home but over the course of a dry, desperate year she finds within herself reserves of strength and rebellion that she could never have expected.
The Woolgrower’s Companion is the gripping story of one woman’s fight to save her home and a passionate tribute to Australia’s landscape and its people.