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Authors: Gillian Mears

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Foal's Bread

BOOK: Foal's Bread
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The sound of horses' hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn't totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn't died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he's pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.

Set in hardscrabble farming country, and the 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.

With luminous prose and an aching affinity for the landscape,
Foal's Bread
is the work of a born writer at the height of her considerable powers. It is a novel of remarkable originality and virtuosity, which confirms Gillian Mears' reputation as one of Australia's most exciting and acclaimed authors.

‘Dappled with fast-moving light and shade, occasionally swelling with romance,
Foal's Bread
is too bubblingly vibrant to grow sentimental, the tangy vernacular of its cast a delight, the blood, sweat and saddle soap pungently rendered.'
T
HE
O
BSERVER

‘Mears writes with such minute appreciation of the landscape of the mid-north coast and with such love for her flawed creations that we are smitten alongside her . . . It is a rare fiction, too, that lavishes such attention and care on the depiction of animals. The horses of
Foal's Bread
are so distinct in personality, talent and physicality that when, as occasionally happens, a human mistreats one, the reader aches to come to their defence. Only a writer of Mears' talent could so enlarge the circle of our sympathy by means of style alone.' G
EORDIE
W
ILLIAMSON
,
T
HE
A
USTRALIAN

‘. . . the personal is raised triumphantly to the universal by the poetic power of her knotty, idiomatic prose and her acute perception of both the inner world of the soul and a sensuously recreated rural outer world.' K
ATHERINE
E
NGLAND
,
A
DELAIDE
A
DVERTISER

‘This spellbinding tale never lets us forget the transfiguring effect that leaping into the sky on the back of one of these noble beasts has on Noah and Roley, and their lives, nor the comfort they derive from the presence and smell of anything connected with them.'
T
HE
H
ERALD
, S
COTLAND

‘This story squeezed my heart with a tight fist and didn't let go until the last page . . . memorable for its subtle rendering of the marriage; a marriage shot through with pathos and rapture . . . also memorable for its acute observation of nature, and the Nancarrows' relationship with their horses . . . Some episodes of this story are so wretched they made me weep. But there is great beauty in the telling. Verdict: Powerful storytelling.'
H
ERALD
S
UN

‘. . . this book about winning and losing—and luck both good and bad—is a harrowing story dotted with moments of outstanding beauty . . . endurance is only a part of this engrossing, epic story. Mears writes with a bleak, precise poeticism, conveying both the tenderness and passion between Noah and Roley and the challenges and complications that strip away their chances of happiness.'
M
ETRO

‘. . . poignant and beautiful with stunning description of the landscape as well as lovingly crafted characters whose journeys the reader follows eagerly to the end.'
B
ELLARINE
T
IMES

‘Mears does for horse high-jumping what Winton did for surfing. She made me feel the joy and beauty of the jump, of pushing oneself to achieve just that little bit more in a risky sport, of having a dream that keeps you going, of doing “the impossible”. Mears, like Winton, knows her subject inside out, and you feel it in her writing.'
W
HISPERING
G
UMS

‘. . . a story about love, sex, joy, sadness, jealousy and ambition. It's about complicated families and the ways in which history often repeats itself within those families. It's about the hardship of living on the land in the years between the wars, of milking cows and breeding horses, despite floods, drought and raging bush fires. But above all it's about aspiring to better things—and chasing dreams . . . the novel is completely free of sentiment, but somehow, in giving her narrative such a strong sense of time and place, you get so caught up in the mood of
Foal's Bread
that it's hard not to care for the people she writes about.'
R
EADING
M
ATTERS

‘Mears writes like an angel.' K
ATE
V
EITCH
,
T
HE
A
GE

‘She has depth and insight and lyrical skill worthy of unmitigated envy.' M
URRAY
W
ALDREN
,
T
HE
A
USTRALIAN

‘In noticing her world, she has also learnt to write with a memorable love of people. Mears has that rare ability to move both to tears and to laughter in what seems to be the same gesture, the same vision of the world.' J
OHN
H
ANRAHAN
,
T
HE
A
USTRALIAN

‘Mears continues to nudge us back to what we suspect about ourselves and remind us of what we'd prefer to forget.'
T
HE
A
GE

‘It is impossible to read Mears' work and not see the world suddenly, obsessively, magnified into tiny, balletic gestures of light and dust.'
T
HE
A
USTRALIAN
W
OMEN'S
B
OOK
R
EVIEW

ALSO BY GILLIAN MEARS

A Map of the Gardens
Collected Stories
Paradise is a Place
The Grass Sister
The Mint Lawn
Fineflour
Ride a Cock Horse

FOAL'S BREAD

GILLIAN
MEARS

The lines are taken from the poem
‘An Exequy', by Peter Porter
. This poem, dedicated to his first wife after her death, was published in his book
The Cost of Seriousness
in 1978. Reproduced by permission of the Estate of Peter Porter.

The lines are taken from the poem
‘Silver Wind', by Geoff Page
.
Reproduced by permission of the author.

This edition published in 2012
First published in 2011

Copyright © Gillian Mears 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Some parts of
Foal's Bread
were written with the assistance of a New Work
Established Writers grant from the Literature Board.

Allen & Unwin
Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, London

83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Australia
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax:     (61 2) 9906 2218
Email:  [email protected]
Web:    
www.allenandunwin.com

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia
www.trove.nla.gov.au

ISBN 978 1 74331 185 1

Cover design by Sandy Cull, gogoGingko
Internal design by Yolande Gray, Sandy Cull
Set in Garamond by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For my sister Yvonne

‘Lameness is the language of pain,
not a disease . . .'

‘A lame horse will often seem full of
great silence and suffering.'

HAROLD LEENEY,
HOME DOCTORING OF ANIMALS
, 1927

BOOK: Foal's Bread
4.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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