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Foal's Bread

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  825 Ratings  ·  142 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
Mass Market Paperback, B format, Australia, 361 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Allen & Unwin Australia (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,567)
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Penni Russon
Apr 07, 2012 Penni Russon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Deborah Biancotti
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Simone Sinna
Dec 05, 2012 Simone Sinna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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
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
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
Dec 19, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2013 Alken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 19, 2016 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia, c21st, 11review
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
Julia Tulloh Harper
'Foal's Bread' is grim, jubilant, violent, gentle, magical, heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time. I would probably give this 4.5 stars, but happy to round to 5 because it's so wonderfully written and I don't think I'll ever forget any of the characters. This book has to be destined to become an Australian classic.

Set in the 1910s and 20s, it follows a family of farmers and horse jumpers - mostly Noey, her husband Roley, and her daughter Lainey. The story isn't plot driven but there i
Apr 28, 2013 Claire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This bowled me over. I hope it becomes an Australian classic.
Lizzy Chandler
Jan 16, 2015 Lizzy Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 13, 2011 Kay Hart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Helen King
I think my ratings for this book suffered from my overly high expectations. It had some interesting ideas, but they never fully resonated with me. I felt I was reading from a distance, and didn't engage with the main characters, which was a shame - their lives were full of experiences that called out for connection. I think it could just be me, though.
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
Oct 27, 2012 Adele rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
For some reason, I tend to stay away from Australian fiction. I’m not sure why that is especially; maybe I’m just so used to reading novels with settings in Europe or America or whatever, or maybe it’s because I really really hate white Australian history, and that has bled over into my preference for novels. I don’t know. But something made me want to read this book, and I think it’s more to the credit of that beautiful cover that I actually picked it up.

I wasn’t prepared for what was inside th
Louise Allan
May 12, 2014 Louise Allan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 06, 2012 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aussie
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
Anna Spargo-Ryan
Feb 02, 2013 Anna Spargo-Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australiana
I liked it. The prose is beautiful, no doubt about it. Each character has a harrowing story. The way the author toys with language, especially dialogue, is interesting and makes for an absorbing read.

I did feel that Mears dropped the ball on a lot of the themes, though. There are some really strong threads and beginnings of themes: the foal's bread being the most obvious, but also the lightning, the jacaranda, the alcoholism. Each of these elements seems to just prod at the edges of being fully
Aug 21, 2013 Bethan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia
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
May 20, 2012 MaryMartin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australian
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
Jul 15, 2013 Tango rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 '
Apr 25, 2016 Malvina rated it liked it
A multi award winning Australian book about show jumping between the wars that is, without a doubt, written beautifully - but the bleak, unrelenting defeat of dreams and love do take its toll on the reader. Even when something wonderful happens, such as Lainey's record breaking jump, it is soured by the dreadful things that occur shortly after. At the end I felt hopeful that Lainey's mother and father, Noah and Roley, were united in death with the love that flared between them when they were you ...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
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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 an Australian short story writer and novelist.
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