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The Year of The Farmer – Rosalie Ham

Cover image of the 'Year of the Farmer' by Rosalie Ham
The Year of the Farmer – Rosalie Ham

I have enjoyed all of Rosalie Ham’s novels. Summer at Mount Hope, There Should be More Dancing and The Dressmaker. 

I reserved it at the library (trying to reduce the enormous number of books in my house) thinking it would take ages to be my turn, but it arrived very swiftly.

It was very good – laugh out loud funny, very Australian  and with something to say about rural living, and water (its scarcity, how it’s used and who gets to use it).

Here’s the blurb…

In a quiet farming town somewhere in country New South Wales, war is brewing.

The last few years have been punishingly dry, especially for the farmers, but otherwise, it’s all Neralie Mackintosh’s fault. If she’d never left town then her ex, the hapless but extremely eligible Mitchell Bishop, would never have fallen into the clutches of the truly awful Mandy, who now lords it over everyone as if she owns the place.

So, now that Neralie has returned to run the local pub, the whole town is determined to reinstate her to her rightful position in the social order. But Mandy Bishop has other ideas. Meanwhile the head of the local water board – Glenys ‘Gravedigger’ Dingle – is looking for a way to line her pockets at the expense of hardworking farmers already up to their eyes in debt. And Mandy and Neralie’s war may be just the chance she was looking for…

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The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker - Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham


Obviously I had to read this when I learnt that it was to be adapted (and with Kate Winslet). I have already read Summer at Mount Hope  and There Should be More Dancing . I didn’t enjoy The Summer at Mount Hope, but I have recently re-read it and I was quite taken the second time around.

Here is the blurb …

A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture—soon to be a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth

After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat—the town’s only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics—and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly’s mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion.

This was funny, moving and terribly sad by turns. It is a very visual novel with fabulous descriptions of Dungatar, it’s inhabitants and the frocks (reading about the frocks is particularly delightful). It is gothic – the characters almost caricatures -Mr Almanac the twisted (literally) chemist who refers to almost everyone as a sinner, Prudence Dimm, the bitter, vengeful school teacher, etc. There are very few likeable characters! But it is funny (in a dark way) and it skewers small town pretensions while highlighting the lack of power of vulnerable citizens.

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There Should be More Dancing – Rosalie Ham

I bought this novel based solely on the title – there should be more dancing, don’t you think? I have read and enjoyed Summer at Mount Hope, so that might have made me more receptive to buy a book knowing nothing at all about it. Rosalie Ham is Australian and this novel is definitely Australian. It reminded me at times of the movie The Castle – there were some laugh out loud Australian humour, so international readers beware.

Here is the blurb …

Margery Blandon has led an upright, principled life guided by the wisdom of desktop calendars. What went wrong? Margery suspects her that her first born, Walter, has betrayed her. Her second son, Morris, might have committed a crime, and her only daughter is almost certainly trying to kill her. Then there’s Pat, her life-long neighbour and enemy – now demented – who possibly knows the truth about everything. Should she throw herself from the 43rd floor, or should she abandon everything she believes and embrace her enemy for the sake of what’s right?.

 I loved this novel, the characters are superb. Margery with her cross stitch aphorisms (mostly taken from desktop calendars), her strict routine (roast chicken every Sunday) and her willful blindness to people and events around her. Then there is Walter, the Brunswick Bull, who has never been quite the same since the last fight. Judith, Margery’s daughter, with her mobile beauty business and her determination to finally possess her mother’s pearls. This was a joyful book about a difficult subject; aging. Her children want her to move into a nursing home, so they can sell the house and have the cash. She wants to stay there and if she moved who would tie Mrs Parsons’ shoe laces? There is also a bit of a mystery about Margery’s husband (who blew himself up – and the pub – by smoking too close to his oxygen tank) and Pat (who has dementia) seems to know what it is. And is her second son really managing a hotel overseas? I suspect Margery knows everything, but doesn’t really want to admit she does.

This novel is about families – the relationships between family members, what is due to family and the lies we tell one another for whatever reason. Although it has funny moments, there is an undercurrent of sadness to this novel. Margery, after a life of disappointment, is finally living how she wants and old age, infirmity and greedy relations might steal it all away.

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