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Foal's Bread

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  653 ratings  ·  131 reviews
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 th ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published November 2011 by Allen & Unwin (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,256)
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Penni Russon
The great strength of this novel was the heightened language, the way that words were charged with their own kind of magic, flowing through everything: the body of the horse, the night sky, lightning, the earth's crust, the fences and bridges and farm buildings, the child, the mother... Drawing strongly on a distinctly Indigenous way of understanding the connectedness of all things, the novel is a respectful attempt to reconcile white Australia and Indigenous experiences, it stares frankly at th ...more
Simone Sinna


I knew this was a Literary book when I bought it. I was at the Premier’s literary awards and it won. It had Helen Garner on the cover saying it was “glorious” and the person who took the award on her behalf talking about her in hushed tones that along with the comments from the author at the end (which I read first) and the article in the paper, I knew this was a long time coming, a special book from a special person who among other things is well qualified to write about a chronic insidious ill
...more
Deborah Biancotti
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jillwilson
When I was a little girl, there were three exciting events in the year: Christmas, Easter and the Foster Show – which took place on the third Saturday of February each year. It still does. I went last year for the first time in almost forty years and enjoyed it again. The dog high jump, the decorated cakes, the knitting and the chooks. All great. Foal’s Bread made me remember what status the show had in the lives of country people. Gillian Mears, speaking on the ABC, said that she wanted to writ ...more
Helen Stower
Foal's Bread is the story of an Australian family living in Northern New South Wales and spans the inter-war and WW2 years. The Nancarrow family are dairy people and show jumping runs in the blood. This show jumping is the tough show jumping of the Australian country shows not the regal showjumping of upper class toffs. Life too is tough and this is a book of courage and resilience.

The paths of Noah Childs and Roley Nancarrow intercept at the Port Lake Show where they are both entered in the jum
...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

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 t
...more
Kate
See my full review here - http://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wor...

It’s taken me quite a few days to write this review. It wasn’t a matter of deciding whether or not I liked Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears. In many ways, there’s not much to ‘like’ – it’s bleak, tough, crushing. But it’s also brilliant. In fact, the first chapter of this stunning book will never leave me. It’s the start of a hundred little heart-breaks for the main character, Noah Childs, and as the reader I shared every last one wi
...more
Alken
Like many of the other reviews I have read since finishing this book, I am unsure if I liked it or not. I think, not.

I didn't like many of the characters with the exception of Rol and Lainey, who were the only two warm, kind and insightful people in the book.

Noah was a very damaged girl and woman who was completely unable to express her love for those nearest to her and dealt with negative emotions by lashing out at animals and drinking.

As a horse and animal lover, I was surprised by the main
...more
Lisa
It took me a while to read this, and it's not 'enjoyable' reading, but to understand the human condition better, it's well worth reading.
See my review at http://anzlitlovers.com/2011/10/15/fo...
Lizzy Chandler
I first came across Gillian Mears' Foal's Bread in 2012 when participants of the Australian Women Writers Challenge posted their reviews. Eleven reviews appeared that year, the vast majority of which were laudatory. This was a special book, I realised. It could sneak inside your soul, break your heart, move even the most prosaic reviewer to poetry.

Opening the beautiful dust jacket with its glimpse of a galloping horse, I began to read, only soon to slam the book shut again. The initial pages are
...more
Trish
Gillian Mears’ searing novel of Australia, Foal’s Bread, was sixteen years in the making. It was published in late 2011 with the publishers Allen & Unwin, and then proceeded to win the 2012 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction and The Australian Literary Society’s 2012 Gold Medal while also winning or being shortlisted for eleven other Australian prizes. While apparently still not available in bookstores in the U.S., it is available new or used from mostly overseas sellers ...more
Kay Hart
The novel Foal’s Bread’ is a very fine piece of writing indeed in which author Gillian Mears has drawn from aspects of her knowledge of horses and the jump-circuit events at country shows as well as her own early life in northern NSW farming country. The setting for the novel is the ‘hardscrabble’ countryside to be found in northern NSW during the period prior to World War II.
As much as it is a love story Foal’s Bread also evokes the day-to-day harshness and unrelenting hard work required to ru
...more
Francene Carroll
The past evoked in this novel isn’t as distant as many might think. As a city-bred person living in a tiny rural community in the Australian bush (and treasurer of my local show society) I can attest that many of the traditions surrounding the annual show live on, as do the inarticulateness and stoic approach to life of the book’s characters. I felt that this book captured life in a rural community so perfectly. The blending of colloquial language with poetic descriptions was wonderful and for m ...more
Adele
Really, it didn't suck. It's quite an unhappy novel about being unable to reconcile the past and pretty much having all your hopes and dreams and loves crushed, which isn't a bad thing to write about as long as the author gives and takes. Basically the best bits are all the death and gore. Oh, but there's a line on page220 that I think makes the whole book worth reading.
Louise Allan
The novel tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and the high-jumping horse circuit before WWII. It is set in a fictional northern NSW town called Wirri. Noah, a fourteen-year-old girl whose mother died after birthing her, is as harsh and rugged as the world in which she is growing up. She is neglected by her alcoholic father and in the Preamble, the reader learns that ‘… in her fourteen-year-old womb a dead uncle’s baby grows …’.

Noah gives birth to the child alone and by a r
...more
Alison
Gillian Mears captures the heart and voice of country Australia in Foal's Bread, her first novel after a sixteen year hiatus. Spanning a few decades from the Thirties, the story chronicles the highs and lows of the life of Noah Childs, a girl whose early experiences shape her into gritty, flinty, broken woman. A necessary but cold-hearted decision she makes as a motherless girl haunts her throughout her life. Noah is physically strong and loves fiercely, but she completely lacks an emotional voc ...more
Karen Leopoldina
I like books not horses, so to read a book about horses was always going to be a stretch. But it's such a sexy looking book with its tactile cover and that stunning photograph. So I thought why not: it felt good, it looked good and the weather all rain and grey skies, just perfect for cosying up with a heavy book. What struck me most was the quality of the writing. Mears' prose is lean and spare and she works her sentences hard as she tries to capture the almost elemental lives of people eking a ...more
Bethan
This book is - at least superficially - about horses, which would normally mean I would put it straight back on the bookshop shelf and move on to something else. But a couple of months ago I was at a book event with another Australian author, Michelle de Kretser, and got talking to her London publisher. I have had a soft spot for Australian fiction since the time I spent living there, but very little of it gets published - or publicised - in the UK, so I asked the publisher for a few recommendat ...more
Suzanne
Hard to review this one. She's a great writer, obviously very clever and on the top of her game, but with a subject matter so dark it was hard to enjoy. Maybe if you were a horse lover you could totally appreciate (and understand) it all, but a lot of it was lost on me. And.... I have a 9 month old boy, first pages are grueling and the subject with which they relate is hard to digest, when you read the novel you'll understand my point. But it's one of those books which I'd say do read, to see ho ...more
MaryMartin
Mears makes you feel so emotionally invested in her characters. I really am having trouble putting into words just how powerful, evocative, yet so gentle this wonderful book is. Set against the backdrop of farm life between the two world wars, it is about how one mistake can haunt you forever – but more than that, it is a true love story. It really is full of all kinds of love. I think I will carry the story of Noah and Roley in my heart for a long time. Brimming with country life, particularly ...more
Tango
I read this for my in person book club and have to admit that it didn't appeal at first. I'm not really a horsey person, although I do love animals. But this book is about so much more and I actually found that I loved the descriptions of horse riding and show jumping. The relationships between the main characters and their horses seemed so vividly real.

This book was gripping from the first page and the characters really grew on me. It was both tender and tragic and I found myself crying for th
...more
Michelle
This was not a happy read. I read the boo with an ever increasing sense of doom - expecting that every time I turned the page, disaster would be waiting. And there were plenty of disasters but still the sense of doom did not lift.

Life was tough on the land. Gillian Mears has done a wonderful job of portraying just how tough life was for the Nancarrow family in the years around World War II. She has also given great insight into the importance of the Show, and what an event they were for the comm
...more
Sue
her last book was called the Mint Lawn, apporx 16 years ago.
Foal's Bread is to be read slowly - the narrative is so well crafted and beautiful. It's sad, but also a testament to the strong, resilient Australian spirit. Set againt the harsh elements of farming and bush life, Noah and Roley draw strength from each other - until Roley's debiliating illness drains them along with their dreams and aspirations. I am not 'that into horses' but I loved the descriptions of their horses and the life of '
...more
Cathy Smith
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book despite its horse focus. The motifs, symbolism and literary language blended beautifully with the conflict driven plot and characters. Until I got to the middle. The pace really slowed and the horse descriptions got longer and longer. As I am not a horse person I found this quite irritating. I really pushed myself to get through the middle sections of the book. Intrigue and curiosity helped quicken the pace again in the final 3-4 chapters. I think the ...more
Jane Thomas
A 5 star book is hard to find and this was unexpected as I had the idea this would be way too horsey for a non-horsey reader. So wrong. What a treat - a great read in the traditional sense of a novel. Starts with teenage Noah and follows her trajectory through show jumping then family in country NSW - it's a remote, bleak, insular place of blue skies, hardship and tough characters. Wonderful writing.
Elizabeth Adamson
While I like this book, and really respect the writing ability of Gillian Mears, I couldn't fall in love with it.
Pros:
- descriptions of the landscape, emotions, relationships between characters
- the picture painted of horse jumping, country shows, etc

Cons:
- I couldn't feel where the book was going a lot of the time. Maybe that's just me
- I couldn't connect to most of the characters
Lindz
This is a very fine novel. I can find no fault, it is beautifully and tenderly written. A gorgeous family portrait set against the harsh New South Wales Outback. It is more my fault than Gillian Mears that I did not connect with this novel on an emotional level. She successfully created the novel she set out to create. But I did find my self admiring the craft more than the story.
Denise


Australian Women Writers' Challenge

Reading this book was a deeply emotional experience that will stay with me for a long time. Noah Nancarrow is a most intriguing and complex personality, and her husband Roley is one of the loveliest fictional characters I've had the pleasure to meet . If Foal's Bread doesn't win the Miles Franklin (or the Stella), there's no justice in the world.
Caren
I'm not a horsey person, and all the reviews (formal and friends') when it came out talked about the focus on horses. No one mentioned that it was a ripping good yarn about a family! It was given to me as a present, and sat beside my bed for ages, until I finally picked it up... And then I couldn't put it down. I even liked the bits about the horses.
Emily
Another excellent Australian fiction about life in the country. As promised this book is optimistic and tragic all at once. The horses in this story are given real character and nobility. The author is described as writing "luminous prose" to which I would agree. I am very interested in looking up more of Gillian Mears writing.
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Aussie Readers: Foal's Bread giveaway until 18 December 2011 1 9 Dec 03, 2011 10:49PM  
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Gillian Mears was born in 1964 and is an Australian short story writer and novelist.
More about Gillian Mears...
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