LIFE should, by any measure, be returning to normal on Amiens, the vast finewool-producing property owned by Kate Dowd near Longhope in northern New South Wales.
Post-World War II peace has reigned for the past two years, rainfall has been generous across the region and Kate’s Merino flock is in the peak of health.
With temperatures rising, the 1947–48 summer is shaping up to be a productive one, with lush pasture blanketing the district and plenty of water in the Amiens dam.
‘Normal’ is an unfamiliar concept to Kate, however. As a mid-20-year-old woman trying to run a woolgrowing enterprise singlehandedly, she is an anomaly: an unconventional – indecent, even – upstart bucking the rules of societal decency by stepping out of the kitchen and into the world of not-so-secret men’s farming business.
The squattocracy of Longhope is appalled – not least of all because even Kate’s own husband seems to have tired of her antics. Now entrenched in the islands off New Guinea, Jack Dowd has walked out on his young wife, apparently, leaving her alone to face the shame of having failed at marriage.
Compounding Kate’s anguish, Luca Canali has returned to Longhope. An Italian ex-soldier who as a prisoner of war worked on Amiens three years earlier, Luca is a permanent reminder of a future she can never have: a future with a man she loves and who respects and cares for Kate in return, a kind and understanding, supportive soulmate who is proud of her efforts to keep her family legacy afloat.
Even within Kate’s household there is turmoil; her part-Aboriginal baby half-sister is in line to be snatched away by the authorities.
And now Kate is in the crosshairs of Longhope’s patriarchs yet again for carrying out fuel-reduction burns in her paddocks. What lunacy will this foolish woman come up with next?