On the cusp of Summer in 1986, Rowan Brockman is working as a journalist in the City of Perth. When his mother calls to ask if he will come home to Septimus in the Western Australian Wheatbelt to help with the harvest, Rowan is torn. His brother Albert, the natural heir to the farm, has died, and Rowan’s father’s health is failing after a dementia diagnosis.
Although he longs to, when his mother drops the news that she is selling the farm that has been in the family for three generations, Rowan knows there is no way he can refuse the request. A mix of family obligation, nostalgia and duty draw him back to the world of his youth, where Rowan will face old acquaintances, forgotten memories, grief, and love.
This is the story of one man’s final harvest, in a place he does not want to be, and being given one last chance to make peace before the past, and those he has loved, disappear.
About the author
David Allan-Petale is a writer living between bush and sea north of Perth, Western Australia. He worked for many years as a journalist in WA with the ABC and internationally with BBC World News in London.
David is a father, sailor, and traveller, a man who has a yarn with everyone and likes to share whisky over good conversation. He is a supporter of Classroom of Hope, a not-for-profit devoted to providing access to quality education and building schools in remote areas, which operates in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. He currently runs the writing agency Red Platypus with his partner, Carmen.
Written while travelling the globe over five years, Locust Summer was shortlisted for The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award (2017) and was developed through a fellowship at Varuna, the National Writers’ House.
Questions for discussion
- There are multiple relationship dynamics explored throughout the novel. Which ones are key to Rowan’s growth and why?
- At Albert’s wake, Rowan notices his mother looking at him “with hard eyes as if to say ‘it should have been you.’” (pp. 12). What insight does this give us about Rowan’s relationship with his mother?
- How do you think the relationship dynamic between Rowan and his mother shifts throughout the novel, if at all?
- Do you think Albert’s ‘presence’ throughout the novel aids the family relationship or not?
- The community respond strongly to Rowan’s father’s dementia in different ways, especially when they attend a meal together at the local pub. Do you think this reaction was appropriate for the era and setting of the novel?
- What do you think of the author using Rowan’s father’s dementia as a tool to explore narratives around stolen land and colonisation in Australia?
- How well do you think the author has created a sense of place?
- Do you think Septimus provides a strong impression of the uniqueness of Western Australia’s Wheatbelt and the people who live in these communities?
- What do you think the significance was for the two family dogs becoming wild, turning on the local sheep and their subsequent execution? What lessons did this impart or perhaps solidify for Rowan?
- How has the author used animals and livestock to mirror the experiences and lives of some of the main characters?
- Do you think Rowan experiences a significant shift in how he feels about his home and family by the end of the novel?
- What do you think are some of the key lessons are that Rowan needed to learn from completing the last harvest?
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