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Book clubs  •  1 March 2017

 

Companion notes

Share Joy Rhoades’ heart-breaking story of love, prejudice and war.

A gripping story of one woman’s fight against all odds, and a sweeping tribute to Australia’s landscape and its peoples – The Woolgrowers Companion boasts all the hallmarks of a memorable book club selection. Here are some questions to kick off your next reading group meet up.

Reading Group Questions

  • The novel opens as the graziers, along with Kate, await the arrival of the prisoners of war. Why do you think the writer chose to begin in this way?
  • Landscape plays a big part in the book, and we see Kate’s love of her environment, albeit a brutal and inhospitable one. How do you think landscape shapes Kate’s character? Do we also see its impact on Daisy? Harry? Luca?
  • Kate finds her strengths over time but is flawed too, failing to see things and sometimes assuming the worst of people. Did her flaws help you to sympathise with her? Make her more believable?
  • Ralph suffers from shellshock, or post-traumatic stress disorder in today’s terminology. The local doctor is ahead of his time in recognising the long-term nature of the condition. What did you think of his suggestions to Kate in dealing with her father’s condition?
  • Jack loses control and continues to beat the snake, long after it is dead. What parallels with Ralph’s condition might the author be drawing with this image?
  • Because of the race and class constraints of the time, Kate and Daisy never reach a real friendship, but can only develop a regard and respect for each other. Can you imagine how their relationship might unfold today?
  • Dirt is a perennial image in the novel: the dry earth of the dead lawn and paddocks; the dirt of the veggie garden; the dirt covering Ralph’s coffin. What do you think the author’s intentions might be in using such imagery?
  • Did you enjoy the quotes from the fictionalised Victorian wool growing guide at the start of each chapter? How did they help you understand the story?
  • The novel contains a number of secrets and surprises. What parts of the novel were most important to your enjoyment?
  • Kate reaches out to Luca for her own fleeting happiness near the end of the novel, yet it is left unclear as to whether Jack will return, and how Kate will respond to him if he does. What do you think might happen?
  • Why are the relationships between the women – Kate and Daisy, and Kate and Meg – important to the success of the story?
  • The writer grew up in a small town in Australia, which she has said is a lot like Longhope. Did you find the town and its characters believable?
  • The novel closes at the railway station, where it also opened. Why do you think the writer chose to do this? What are the most striking contrasts between these two scenes?

The Woolgrower's Companion Joy Rhoades

Set over ten tumultuous months in 1945, The Woolgrower's Companion is the gripping story of one woman’s fight against all odds, and a sweeping tribute to Australia's landscape and its people.

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