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Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears

Foal's Bread (2011)

by Gillian Mears

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The Foal's Bread is a sad, haunting story of an Australian family of jumpers before WW11, doing what must be done to survive in an unforgiving atmosphere of hardscrabble living. Mears' beautiful prose verges on poetry. ( )
  vpanzich | Sep 2, 2013 |
Foal's Bread opens with a 14-year-old girl giving birth alone and sending the product of an incestuous union floating down river in a butter box. Clearly this portrait of a clan of showjumpers living between the world wars has little in common with the rural sagas of Bryce Courtenay or Colleen McCullough, but it holds rich rewards for readers who can stomach its bleakness.

This novel is truly original without being self-consciously weird. It offers compelling perspectives on ambition, female desire and the complexities of family loyalty. Gillian Mears' writing is superb. And fundamentally this is also, in the Australian parlance, a cracking good yarn that is really hard to put down. (Typically a slow reader, I devoured Foal's Bread in two days.)

In short: a heart-breaking, exhilarating masterpiece. ( )
1 vote whirled | Jul 11, 2013 |
Though wonderfully evocative and lyrical, Foal's Bread is a bleak, raw story of loss, hardship and love. In the moonlight, at the base of One Tree Hill, a fourteen year old girl watches impassively as her fate drifts down river in a butter box. Spanning several decades, from the mid 1920's to the 1950's, set in the hard country of New South Wales, this is a compelling novel that traces the life of Noah Child.

Foal's Bread is a novel that is appreciated rather than enjoyed, for the unrelenting tragedy that dogs Noah and the Nancarrows is almost unrelieved. Mears cultivates an oppressive atmosphere where joy is short lived and always edged in achingly raw heartbreak. At times I found it difficult to go on yet I also found I could not let go, challenged by the intriguing characters and fascinated by a time and place long gone.
The intimate relationships between the members of the Nancarrow family are compelling. The way in which they turn sour, love twisted by ambition, jealousy and tragedy, lasting happiness elusive. Yet I couldn't help but admire their resilience and the way in which they kept moving forward despite broken minds, bodies and dreams.
Mears also explores the burdens of family legacies and the narrow fate of those tied to the land and it's vagaries. The harsh realities of farming in the bush and the drudgery of day to day existence is detailed without sentiment or the rosy glow of nostalgia. While tightly focused on the Nancarrow family, and One Tree Hill Farm, the story encompasses the events of society, touching on the world wars and their impact on the home front.

It's easy to see why the literati were so taken by Foal's Bread which was nominated for several of Australia's literary awards this year and won quite a few. Combining powerful storytelling with a strong, original narrative firmly grounded in Australia's unique landscape, Foal's Bread is a remarkable novel. ( )
1 vote shelleyraec | Nov 26, 2012 |
Short listed for the Miles Franklin award this is a great Australian story by a great Australian writer.
It tells the story of a family living on a dairy farm in northern NSW in the 1930's.They also breed horses for show-jumping and collect prize money at local shows.
The hero Roly, a champion rider,was a lovely character who adored his family. His wife,Noah, not so likeable, but her life was tainted by giving birth alone at 14 years of age, to her Uncle's baby.Because she abandoned the child she lived her whole life in fear of God's retribution. It did come (she thought) when she gave birth to a sub-normal child and when her beloved husband was struck down by a fatal illness. She turned to drink and eventually committed suicide.A sad end to a life that she never allowed herself to enjoy.
The book is not all "gloom and doom" however and paints a great picture of country life in that era.
The writer also knows horses and portrayed their characters as well as she did the humans.
In the end it is the couples daughter Lainey who goes on to be a champion rider and fulfil their dreams. ( )
  lesleynicol | Oct 25, 2012 |
When a book is nominated and wins just about every award around you figure there is a good reason. In this case, there is.

http://wp.me/p20PAS-bX ( )
  jll1976 | Aug 31, 2012 |
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Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal's bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land.… (more)

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