The Burnt Country raises many questions about the dynamics of small towns, women working on the land, sacrifices and secrets. Dive into the questions listed here to get your reading group discussion started (warning: the questions below contain spoilers).
Discussion points and questions:
- At the beginning of the book, Kate believes that she no longer loves Luca, and importantly, that her exclusive duty must be to Daisy and to Pearl. Do you think every person owes a duty to self? Do you think such a duty might be a kind of self-care?
- ‘There are no secrets in a small town.’ Do you think it is possible to keep a secret in a small community? How does the writer reveal that town’s secrets? How many can you find?
- Small towns are often associated with a strong and supportive community. Which local people who helped Kate did you like particularly?
- In the book, many graziers operate back-burning programs not dissimilar to that followed by Kate and Ed. But Kate is singled out for criticism from John Fleming. Why do you think she is the focus of his attention? Is it simply her gender or are there other factors that threaten him as well?
- The Burnt Country and The Woolgrower’s Companion are often described by readers as cinematic. Do you agree? Who would you choose to play Kate? Luca? Daisy?
- Kate suffers harassment from Nettiford, the fire captain, and endures routine ‘mansplaining’ from Fleming and Maguire, among others. Do you think this is realistic? Might it happen today?
- Kate believes that she cannot reveal to the district that Grimes is a sheep thief because Harry would then be marked as a thief himself. Do you think people still make those kinds of associations, between one generation and the next?
- Daisy, with Ed’s support, decides to make a terrible sacrifice to protect Pearl. She will fake her own death to prevent the Aborigines Welfare Board from putting Pearl into foster care and ultimately on the path to adoption. Do you think she made the right choice?
- Kate’s experience in the bushfire helps her to see that she is prepared to fight to be with Luca after all. Do you think the local people will be generally accepting of her marriage to a former prisoner of war?
- The Burnt Country is a stand-alone sequel to Joy Rhoades’s debut novel, The Woolgrower’s Companion. If you’ve read that book, how do you think Kate changed in the three years before Luca returned?
- At the end of the novel, Kate agrees to pay her estranged husband, Jack, a small amount of money, so long as he stays away from the district. Do you think he will stick to that condition? Do you think she should have paid him anything?