Writers at Stanton - Joy Rhoades
22-Aug-2019 • 1pm
The Burnt Country - Joy Rhoades
Kate Dowd is a woman in a man’s world.
It’s 1948, a few years after the end of World War II. Kate’s abusive husband Jack left at the end of The Woolgrower’s Companion and after her father’s sudden death she’s become the sole owner of the farm.
But suddenly Jack returns, and he wants a divorce. He’s willing to blackmail Kate, threatening to disclose her infidelity with Luca Canali, an Italian prisoner of war.
Kate gears up for this battle and others, including proving her legitimacy as a farmer to disapproving neighbours, and fighting against the removal of her Indigenous half-sister to the Aborigines Welfare Board.
And then, a fire ensues that will destroy everything in its wake, and not just the land, but lives, relationships and the future of Amiens. Kate must rebuild and work to hide all that has been uncovered. The Burnt Country is a work of fiction set in the world of Joy Rhoades’ late grandmother who was raised and lived on her family’s sheep property in northern NSW.
This beautifully lyrical historical novel summons deeply-felt nostalgia for rural post-war grazing communities while it explores themes like the negative judgement of single female farmers, the battle against bushfires in a warming climate, and the separation of families throughout the Stolen Generations.
Joy Rhoades was born in Roma in western Queensland, with an early memory of flat country and a broad sky. Growing up, she loved reading and the bush. Her family would visit her grandmother, a fifth generation grazier and a gentle teller of stories of her life on her family’s sheep farm.
While living in New York Joy completed a Masters in Creative Writing at the New School University, and wrote much of The Woolgrower’s Companion, a novel inspired in part by snippets of her grandmother’s life and times. She now lives in London with her husband and their two young children, but she misses the Australian sky.