Welcome to Foal's Bread, Gillian Mears' first novel in sixteen years, one eagerly awaited by Gillian's passionate readers. It is worth the wait.
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 fate and the vicissitudes of the land.
It is a love story of impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams "turned inside out", and miracles that never last, framed against a world both heartbreakingly tender and unspeakably hard.
Written in luminous prose and with an achingly affinity for the landscape the book describes, Foal's Bread is the work of a born writer at the height of her considerable powers. It is a stunning work of remarkable originality and power, one that confirms Gillian Mears' reputation as one of our most exciting and acclaimed writers.
And so we come to the end of the Foal's Bread readalong. Even now at the end of the experience I can't decide if I am glad to have made it to the end of the book or just relieved that it was over.
This section was the shortest of the sections that we had to read, and it was pretty dramatic. I really can't talk too much about what happened during these final chapters without major, major spoilers, but that impending doom that was prevalent in the earlier sections pretty much were not unwarranted.
I guess the key to this book will really be how readers react to Noah, and even in this final section I am torn in my reaction. Could I have done what she did - definitely no in both cases. Did a part of me cheer when she stepped in and did what she did for Lainey - a little. Did my heart break for her children - absolutely.
One thing that I did find myself wondering is what happened to George. We meet Lainey when she returned to One Tree later in her life but there is not a lot mentioned about him. I was so glad that we did have this final section to finish off the story because without it the book would have ended at quite a morose place.
It was interesting that the author choose to have a preamble and a coda rather than the more usual prologue and epilogue. I wonder what the significance of that choice was in the author's mind.
For those of us participating in the readalong, there have been differing reactions to the book, some more enthusiastic, but we have all talked at some points about the difficulties of the subject matter, the language and more. This is definitely not an easy read. I guess how much you enjoy it will very much depend on your own life experiences and your taste in literature. For me, this touched a couple of topics that are very close to home and that certainly impacted on my reaction to the book, especially my reaction to Noah.
To read the thoughts of other participants in the readalong visit the following links:
The Book Nerd Club
The Talking Teacup
My Journal of Becoming a Writer
Fantasy vs Reality
Slightly Addicted to Fiction
The Book Nook
Thanks to Danielle from Book Nerd Club for hosting the readalong and Allen and Unwin for providing the review copy.