Words leave imprints in your mind like footprints in the sand...
Prague, Czech Republic
Uluru, Australia
  • Location: New South Wales, Sydney, Tablelands (NSW)

The Woolgrower’s Companion

The Woolgrower’s Companion

Why a Booktrail?

1945: On a struggling farm, in the middle of nowhere, two Italian POWS come to work..

  • ISBN: 978-1784741341
  • Genre: Fiction, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

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.

Travel Guide

New South Wales

The town of Longhope is fictional but it is set north of Armidale in New South Wales. This is also there area where the inspiration for the story came from in the form of the author’s grandmother’s era. It is not her story she says but inspired by it as is the farm of Amiens and the family sheep farm. During the 2ww, it was commonplace for POWs to be stationed in rural areas in order to help out on the land.

Landscape is central to the novel. It is the land which makes the people who they are, it provides shelter, their home, food and livelihood and many have lived off this land for as long as they can remember. Longhope is a dusty dry land where sheep roam, where the dry creek bed winds through the town like a snake. The land where the sky, the change in the weather can herald danger or hope the next day. Farming depends on the elements and the elements are often raw. Nature is harsh at times. The saying Shepherd’s Delight’ here is not what it means in England – a red sky here you see is not a good thing.

The Woolgrower’s Companion

The novel is sprinkled with snippets from the book entitled The Woolgrowers Companion which details and gives advice on the how to raise sheep, rams and how the rearing of these animals is central to the success of the farm. These animals are dependent on the landscape, the soil and the weather and the nature of the soil improves the feed and quality of the sheep. Animals and landscape at one with each other.

Aboriginal lands

The Tablelands area are lands where the Aboriginal people are treated not just like  outsiders,  but worse. The maid in the story has been given to them by a Mission house out at Broken Hill. If she disobeys the strict rules about serving the white people, then they may send her back to her life of misery in the home. These people aren’t allowed to touch the food the others eat, interact or become too familiar. There are strict terms and conditions on their lives here. What once was the land of their ancestors is now their prison.

The 2ww

Of course the major backdrop to this story is the war which is ongoing and the experience and backstory of the POWS who come to work on the farm. Foreigners in a place where landownership rules and where your backstory decides your future. Life here is tough for them and they are forced to work hard. War still makes their hands tremble and their futures uncertain.

Trail Gallery

Booktrailer Review

Susan: @thebooktrailer

An all encompassing and epic novel with a landscape so central to the plot and the events which unfold. The story of a sheep farm is closely linked to the hopes and passions of the people who live there. If the farm fails, then so do they. The weather is not their friend and the lack of water is dangerous for all, but debt too. Seems that despite being in the most remote of locations, the heavy hand of the bank is upon them.

I loved this novel – snippets of the landscape emerged like a crayon gentling rubbing over a piece of paper and revealing the farm, the trees, the dry land and the sheep farm in tiny flaky bits. As the picture built up, the characters come into full focus and I enjoyed getting to know the sharp contrasts of their lives before and after the war, how change was destroying what they had and how hope was as dry as that creek bed.

It’s a lyrical tale and very sad in places for the POWS are just as displaced as the Aboriginal people. The various cultural and historical strands were fascinating and I really enjoyed seeing how everything linked back to the fortunes of the farm. The Woolgrowers companion was a fitting book to show how nature, the art of sheep rearing, was almost like a book which reflected the fortunes of those on the farm. The start of each chapter revealed a little more of the path the characters were going on as if to reflect fate and greater awareness of the Australian farming landscape.

This is an ode to the Australian landscape and the passion it inspires in the people who work on it as well as those who visit. It’s a panoramic view – the author spent her childhood here and much of the story is of course inspired by the era her grandmother lived in. Together with the mix and historical heritage of the Aboriginal peoples, this novel sang and immersed me into the landscape so much I could feel, see, hear everything about that land, the weather and the sky.

There’s lots more to say about this book but I think it’s one to discover for yourself. It’s a quiet and poignant read and reveals much about Australian culture and history which I had never really considered before. Enlightening and very very poetic.


Booktrail Boarding Pass: The Woolgrower’s Companion

Author/Guide: Joy Rhoades Destination: New South Wales  Departure Time: 1945

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