The Burnt Country

The Burnt Country

A scandalous secret. A deadly bushfire. An agonizing choice.Australia 1948. As a young woman single-handedly running Amiens, a sizeable sheep station in New South Wales, Kate Dowd is expected to fail. In fact the local graziers are doing their best to ensure she does.However Kate cannot risk losing Amiens, or give in to her estranged husband Jack's demands to sell. Because...

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Title:The Burnt Country
Author:Joy Rhoades
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Edition Language:English

The Burnt Country Reviews

  • Marianne

    “Kate was sure she didn’t need a solicitor. Doctors were for the dying, and solicitors for the guilty, her father always said. The locals would assume the worst.”

    The Burnt Country is the second novel by best-selling Australian author, Joy Rhoades. If three years of good rain and productivity at Amiens have been a reprieve from Kate Dowd’s biggest concerns, that all seems to be coming to an abrupt end in November, 1948. Her estranged husband, Jack has returned from the islands intent on a divorce

    “Kate was sure she didn’t need a solicitor. Doctors were for the dying, and solicitors for the guilty, her father always said. The locals would assume the worst.”

    The Burnt Country is the second novel by best-selling Australian author, Joy Rhoades. If three years of good rain and productivity at Amiens have been a reprieve from Kate Dowd’s biggest concerns, that all seems to be coming to an abrupt end in November, 1948. Her estranged husband, Jack has returned from the islands intent on a divorce, to which Kate is agreeable, but the price he is asking in return for not smearing her reputation is an amount that is beyond her wherewithal to raise. And sell Amiens? She could never do that.

    The Aborigines Welfare Board, an inflexible bureaucracy which Kate considers is more intent on following regulations than actually caring for its charges, has issued her an ultimatum: by the end of the month, she either hands over her almost-three-year-old half-sister Pearl to be adopted by a white family, or the child’s aboriginal mother, Daisy will be moved from her position at Amiens to another employer.

    Despite the fact that Harry Grimes, now thirteen, has been happily living and learning at Amiens, his recently-returned great-uncle (and Amiens ex-manager) Keith Grimes is insisting a very reluctant Harry come to live with him. Also back on the scene, Luca Canali, the man Kate is trying hard to convince herself was merely a wartime indiscretion and not the man she loves.

    On top of all this, a horror bushfire season is predicted, and Kate’s carefully managed back-burns have met with disapproval from local graziers, the most vociferous of these being her close neighbour, John Fleming. “Kate knew: the same rules didn’t apply to her as to other graziers, to the men. If she did anything that was disapproved of the town felt, without exception, that she needed to be taught a lesson, as if she were a child.”

    Once again, Rhoades captures the mood and feel of the mid-forties farming community with consummate ease. In the era she describes there were few rights for women, children, migrants and aboriginal people, and often even fewer to advocate for them. Sexism was de rigeur, sexual harassment not unusual and there was a common mindset that mixed blood aboriginal children could only be properly raised by white folk. Divorce carried a stigma, as did the misdemeanours of one’s elders.

    Rhoades’s extensive research is apparent in every chapter; the dialogue is authentic and her characters are multi-faceted, harbouring secrets and displaying entirely human reactions to the dilemmas they face. Kate makes errors of judgement that add to her woes. But, when it matters most, there is support for Kate, some of it from surprising quarters. The irrepressible Harry Grimes, with his non-stop commentary, cheeky banter and unquenchable curiosity, is an utter delight.

    Each chapter is prefaced by a quote (often relevant) from Kate’s essential reference book, The Woolgrower’s Companion (which never once concedes that the eponymous woolgrower might be a woman). This wonderful story is enclosed in a gorgeous cover and complemented with seven classic recipes and a list of thought-provoking Book Club Questions.

    This sequel to The Woolgrower’s Companion easily stands alone but readers intending to read TWC should do so first (and why deny oneself that pleasure?) as the recap necessarily contains many spoilers. A brilliant, heart-warming novel that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.

    This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Penguin Random House Australia and the author.

  • Brenda

    Set in 1948 rural NSW, the prejudices of the local farmers and graziers against a young Kate Dowd, running her sheep station,

    after her father had died three years earlier was cruel, heartless but typical of the time. A housekeeper; a young Aboriginal girl helping in the house; young Harry and Pearl; plus a few stockmen – they and Kate continued to run

    well. But the locals couldn’t abide her success – from the bank manager, to the haberdashery owner and her next door neighbour, Mr

    Set in 1948 rural NSW, the prejudices of the local farmers and graziers against a young Kate Dowd, running her sheep station,

    after her father had died three years earlier was cruel, heartless but typical of the time. A housekeeper; a young Aboriginal girl helping in the house; young Harry and Pearl; plus a few stockmen – they and Kate continued to run

    well. But the locals couldn’t abide her success – from the bank manager, to the haberdashery owner and her next door neighbour, Mr Fletcher – Kate was fighting the battle daily.

    Her husband Jack and Kate were estranged. But Jack wasn’t letting her go without a fight; his bitter, vindictive nature frightened Kate, but she knew she couldn’t – shouldn’t – give in to his orders. The day the bushfire took hold, heading for her property and that of her neighbour, was the start of a terrible time for Kate and

    . With Luca in danger from a determined Jack, and Kate finding who her friends really were, it seemed that the result wouldn’t be good for anyone. Was Kate strong enough to withstand the assault of the townsfolk? Could she possibly keep all she held dear without repercussions?

    is my first by Aussie author Joy Rhoades and I thoroughly enjoyed it. An intense and emotional look at Australia in the mid-1900s; at the way the women of our country were treated and also how the Aboriginals were shunned. Shameful, shocking and eye-opening. The sign of an excellent author was my urge to shake sense (and more!) into some of the arrogant and self-centred men that showed their faces in

    . A highly readable novel which I have no hesitation in recommending highly.

    With thanks to Penguin Random House for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

  • Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling

    Fabulous! A tension packed read.

    My View:

    This was not the booked I expected to read!

    Firstly I did not realise that this was the second in a series until I looked up the book details for my review. But don’t worry this reads perfectly as a stand a one.

    Second – this is not the rural romance I thought it was going to be. There are relationships – but that is what life is about; the complex nature of our emotional resilience.

    Thirdly – whilst this is a “historical” fiction the times are not that fa

    Fabulous! A tension packed read.

    My View:

    This was not the booked I expected to read!

    Firstly I did not realise that this was the second in a series until I looked up the book details for my review. But don’t worry this reads perfectly as a stand a one.

    Second – this is not the rural romance I thought it was going to be. There are relationships – but that is what life is about; the complex nature of our emotional resilience.

    Thirdly – whilst this is a “historical” fiction the times are not that far away (late 1940s early 50’s). I found the social issues intriguing; women’s’ rights – financial, social, family, legal, work, domestic violence, the war, detention, The Stolen Generation… so so interesting and engaging.

    This narrative packs a big punch – so many social issues, a tense engaging plot, relationships that felt real, I loved the way women supported each other and help raise each other up. The theme of fire was constant and added a cohesion to the overall plot and an uneasiness that anyone living in a dry, remote countryside will understand.

    This read was surprising and amazing! I loved it and I hope you do too.

    And I see a book to film in the future....

    PS

    I enjoyed the bonus recipes supplied at the end of the book.

  • Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    The Burnt Country is the second novel from Joy Rhoades, a stand alone sequel to her debut novel, The Woolgrower’s Companion.

    Set in rural NSW in 1946, Kate Dowd is making a success of Amiens, the sheep station she inherited after the death of her father three years previously. Few admire her for it though, especially neighbouring grazier, John Fleming, and his cronies, who take every opportunity to undermine Kate’s management. Already under siege from her estranged husband, the Aboriginal Welfare

    The Burnt Country is the second novel from Joy Rhoades, a stand alone sequel to her debut novel, The Woolgrower’s Companion.

    Set in rural NSW in 1946, Kate Dowd is making a success of Amiens, the sheep station she inherited after the death of her father three years previously. Few admire her for it though, especially neighbouring grazier, John Fleming, and his cronies, who take every opportunity to undermine Kate’s management. Already under siege from her estranged husband, the Aboriginal Welfare Board, and the unexpected return of Luca Canali, Kate is feeling the strain, which only worsens when a bushfire rages through Longhope, a man is killed, and the community seems determined to lay the blame at Kate’s feet.

    Rhoades skilfully captures the setting and period in which The Burnt Country is set. Her descriptions of the environs are evocative, and I could easily visualise Amiens. The characters of The Burnt Country were fully realised, and their attitudes and behaviour felt true to the time period.

    “Kate knew: the same rules didn’t apply to her as to other graziers, to the men. If she did anything that was disapproved of the town felt, without exception, that she needed to be taught a lesson, as if she were a child.”

    If I’m honest I spent most of the book frustrated by Kate, even with the knowledge of the very real societal constraints a woman of her time, and in her position would face. She was very rarely the agent of her own fate, it was really only through the actions of others that she, and Amiens, were saved.

    I adored Harry, Kate’s Informal teenage ward, though. Clever, cheeky and curious, he provided some levity in tense moments. I also had a great deal of sympathy for Daisy, and her daughter, Pearl. The policies of the Aboriginal Welfare Board were (and remain) shameful.

    Perhaps because I hadn’t read The Woolgrower’s Companion, I wasn’t particularly invested in Kate’s relationship with Luca, though his adoration of her was clear. I was definitely glad Kate was finally able to rid herself of her awful husband.

    ”For the woolgrower, the turn of the seasons and the array of assaults upon his endeavours require both constancy and seal.”

    Well written and engaging, The Burnt Country is a lovely novel, one I’d happily recommend to readers who enjoy quality Australian historical fiction. As a bonus, The Burnt Country also includes period recipes from the author’s family collection, and thoughtful discussion questions for the benefit of Book Clubs.

  • Craig / Phil

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