BOOK CLUB: Locust Summer

Locust Summer is David Allan-Petale’s first novel. It was shortlisted for the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award and was also selected for a fellowship for Allan-Petale at Varuna, the National Writers’ House.

The cover of the book is simply stunning with its slightly abstract ripened ears of wheat in golden brown and blue and red hues that seem to swirl through the book’s title. But the title itself is mystifying. 

The title ‘Locust Summer’ combined with images of ears of wheat evokes an expectation of summer harvest and swarms of locusts decimating farmers’ livelihoods as they strip the land leaving nothing in their wake. Or a battle of time, farmers racing to harvest their wheat before the swarms come, as the news reports the swarms getting ever closer. 

But there are no locust swarms.

Rowan Brockman, the main character in the novel, is a journalist with a Perth Newspaper. His family has been farming in the Western Australian Wheatbelt for many years, his elder brother, Albert, the heir to the farm, has died, his father’s health is failing and so his mother calls him to please come and help with the harvest. Despite his reluctance to do so, Rowan feels he must return to the family farm for one last harvest.

The tale chronicles Rowan’s feelings about returning to the farm and his sense of not belonging.

I have to admit I struggled with this book as I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. I felt like I was reading one of those literary masterpieces we had to read and analyse in English High School classes which never quite gelled with me. And maybe that’s the point, this book falls into that group of literary masterpieces.

Having said that, I found Allan-Petale’s depiction of dementia well handled, the flashes of lucidity, confusion of one person for another, and refusal to cooperate. The sheer heat of a West Australian summer was also well conveyed, you could feel the heat jumping off the page at you.

Locust Summer is not a hard book to read, it flows, it doesn’t pull any punches on how hard the Wheatbelt farmers have it, and it acknowledges the wrongs of the land being taken from the First Nation peoples.

I have the feeling that this book, much like Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe, will split its readership firmly down the middle, you will either love it, or you really won’t, there will be few, if any, who fall into the middle ground.

Many thanks to Fremantle Press, and Beauty and Lace Book Club for the opportunity to read and review Locust Summer by David Allan-Petale.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Locust Summer by David Allan-Petale. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

ISBN: 9781925816365
Copy courtesy of Fremantle Press

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