Bibliophile | Fleur McDonald’s ‘The Shearer’s Wife’

The Shearer’s Wife
by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin

In 1980, Rose Kelly felt as big as an elephant as she was heavily pregnant with twins and desperate to get out of the confines of the Holden Kingswood Wagon. Accompanying her husband Ian to his next shearing shed, she aches to stop in the small town of Barker and not go on for another 200 kms to the shed.

What Rose wouldn’t do to stay in one place rather than be dragged from one shearing shed to the next. She was sick if the constant travel, the weary men with whom she had to share a bathroom and the stench of sheep, but that was her lot as a shearer’s wife.

In 2020, Sergeant Dave Burrows is at the Barker Police Station when three members of the Australian Federal Police come to the town to make an arrest an unlikely resident for the possession of narcotics. Knowing most of the townspeople, the arrest came as a shock and he knew there must be something sinister going on.

This is Fleur McDonald’s 16th novel and she continues to raise awareness about rural concerns. As the story moves back and forth between 1980 and 2020, she shows how country people have had a tough time, resisting showing any sort of weakness and quite often not dealing with traumas.

Fleur is currently share farming 800 hectares on the South Coast of WA where the decline in rainfall has meant that she has had to face challenges of relying on the land as well as raising two children in a remote area.

At the core of this novel is the difficulties in maintaining relationships while having to deal with the unique pressures of rural life – in the present as well as in the past. Rose has to make a choice between her marriage or settling down; the local journalist Zara has a problematic relationship with police officer Jack in the small country town and Dave’s wife Kim finds it difficult to be her own person.

Fleur is also the founder of DVassist (previously known as Breaking the Silence), an organization that supports people in rural and remote areas experiencing family and domestic violence.

Fleur McDonald will be in Perth at the Don Russell Performing Arts Centre in Thornlie at 7pm on Monday 2nd November to launch her latest book. Go to Eventbrite to register for this free event.

Lezly Herbert

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