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The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham

Rosalie Ham is best known for her novel The Dressmaker that was made into a movie starring Kate Winslet. I thought The Year of the Farmer was an even better novel and would recommend this quirky novel about two women (and a town) at war.

Set in an isolated rural Australia town in the middle of a drought, Mandy Bishop, an unlikable local newsagent, has managed to bag herself the most eligible bachelor in town, Mitch. Her rival, golden girl Neralie Macintosh, Mitch’s ex, fled to the city years, but now she has returned to run the local pub. War immediately begins these two women – but everyone in town is fed up with Mandy’s behaviour, including her husband, Mitch. As the novel progresses the town tries to reinstate Neralie is the queen bee, and Mandy responds with many acts of revenge. And Neralie is drawn to Mitch, now realising she had walked away from the love of her life…

This is a story of star-crossed lovers and double-dealing in a rural setting with not much more than farmland, a main street and a pub. The river is the lifeblood of the novel, as the town waits for the drought to finally break – but it is the river that divides townsfolk from each other. Like The Dressmaker, it is a tragedy and a romantic comedy all in one. The book is peopled with eccentric characters but captures the feel of a small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It’s a great read!

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Macmillan Publishers, RRP $34.99