Originally published: June 2018
Author: Joy Rhodes
Published by: Vintage
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page count: 410
Reading dates: 24-29 June 2018
Star Rating: 4/5
‘You were right, you know,’ Meg called. ‘Sheilas have to be brave every bloody day. Men just need it in bursts, the bastards.’
Set towards the end of World War 2, Kate Dowd lives with her father on their sheep station Amiens, in the Australian outback. Kate’s husband Jack (whom she married after not knowing him for long) is away training soldiers. Also living on the farm are Grimes, who oversees the day to day running of the farm, his young nephew Henry, some Aboriginal farm workers, a 14-year-old aboriginal housekeeper Daisy and 2 Italian POW labourers. Her father’s mental health is failing and Kate finds herself taking on a lot of the day to day management of the farm, and is shocked to find the farm is nearly bankrupt. She has just 8 weeks to pay off the debt or loose the farm and her home.
Kate’s life until now has been sheltered and she finds she must step up to the challenges of managing the farm, repaying the debt and looking after her father. She finds herself being drawn to Luca (one of the Italian POWs).
I really like historical books, especially those set in more recent times and those that teach me about different cultures. I know little about Australia and this book describes the racism towards the Aboriginal people and how they were essentially treated as slaves. I also didn’t know about the Italian POW labourers that were drafted in to help on the land while the men were away fighting. The descriptions in this book of the farm (vast and dry in the drought) make me feel dusty just thinking about them!
The growth in Kate’s character is marvellous to see – she goes from a naïve young woman to a strong character and the strength she is showing by the end of the book makes me want to cheer!
I’d have liked to see the characters padded out a little more – they all seem to drink a lot of tea and eat a lot of bikkies but there is something missing from the book that makes me feel I’ve not really connected to them. There are a couple of plot points that I figured out very early on in the book – maybe the clues are too obvious (or I am remarkably clever!) but it’s a shame I had them figured out or I would have been suitably surprised!
It ends without everything being resolved and I’m pleased to say Joy is working on a sequel!
Thank you to Joy (who I met on Instagram) and Penguin for sending me a copy.
About the author:
Joy Rhoades grew up in a small town in the bush in Queensland, Australia. Some of her favourite memories were visiting her grandmother’s sheep farm in rural New South Wales where her father had grown up.
At 13 she went to boarding school in Brisbane and stayed on there to study law and literature at the University of Queensland.
She currently lives in London with her husband and two young children.
Joy can be found on Twitter
Some photos from Joy’s website