This is the email request I received for my next review:
Reasons to ask you:
1. I love your reviews.
2. We’re both called Joy
3. You love histfic (esp. if well-researched (check – I am now mates with more historians than you can imagine); and reflective of its time (check, I’m told)
4. You love books set in countries you’re not familiar with: Australia?
5. Above all: you love books that leave you thinking about them after you leave the last page. Woooo! Wonderfully, readers tell me this often about The Woolgrower’s Companion. (It was one of the best-selling debuts in Oz in 2017).
How could I turn down such a personalised email? Did I enjoy the book in the end? Read on to find out!
The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades is set in 1945 in the outback of Australia. Kate Dowd needs to help save her family’s sheep farm in New South Wales in a time when all the able-bodied men have gone to fight in the war and her father is struggling with massive debt and his own problems from the Great War. Kate is also concerned about the Italian POWs who have been sent to work on the farm and the young Indigenous girl who has come to work as a maid. Can Kate save the farm while dealing with a barrage of other issues?
So, did Joy rightly anticipate my love for The Woolgrower’s Companion? Yes – and more! This book reminded me somewhat of a Lesley Pearce book but it held its own in many ways. Firstly, I was impressed by the location. At first, I was sceptical about its setting in the outback and wrongly assumed it would be boring. Having read the book, I feel the setting on a sheep farm in rural Australia added something special, it made the characters more real.
Speaking of the characters, The Woolgrower’s Companion presents us with many people from different backgrounds: we have the farm workers like Kate, her father and Grimes, the farm manager, the Italian POWs, Luca and Vittorio, and Daisy, the Indigenous maid. These characters worked well together but that is not why I enjoyed them. I enjoyed them because they allowed Joy to touch on sensitive matters and educate readers on certain parts of history which might not have already been known.
I was a sucker for Kate, our protagonist. The story is told through her eyes and the way it is told brought a deep emotion to the book. I liked Kate for many reasons but the main one was that she is a strong female. A woman doesn’t have to take over the world to be a role model. Explore Kate in The Woolgrower’s Companion and you will see just why.
Finally, this book was so well-researched and I admire any other who goes to that level of research to tell a story. This is historical fiction and I know that may not be everyone’s cup of tea but there are many things that one can relate to or at least be empathetic towards in today’s world.
I really enjoyed The Woolgrower’s Companion a lot. If some reviews are to be believed a sequel is on the cards. I, for one, hope this is true!
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.