Saturday, October 15, 2011

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears Readalong Part Two

This is the second instalment for the Foal's Bread Readalong, which is hosted by Danielle at The Book Nerd Club.  We are now halfway through the novel, with this instalment covering chapters 7 through to the end of chapter 13. 

Spoiler Alert: discussion of the content follows

These chapters more or less seem to cover the duration of WWII, and follow the inhabitants of One Tree through those years.  The persistent melancholic mood of the drama is underscored by Roley's legs becoming more and more useless.  The consequences of Roley's disability are far reaching: he is rejected from signing up for the army, he is less able to do even basic work on the property, and perhaps most sadly, he becomes more and more remote from Noah.

A harsher edge appears in Noah, as she becomes isolated in her work at One Tree; milking the cows, looking after the horses and her two children.  Noah finds temporary solace away from One Tree, drinking with her aunts in the town.

The incredibly sad family situation is beautifully balanced by Noah and Roley's emotional investment in their children and the horses.  The long barren Gurlie is finally with foal and gives birth, bringing joy and hope to the family.  The section ends with all of the family back in the saddle, practicing jumps on the property.  After an exhilarating afternoon on the horses, the section ends on a sour note, as a large rupture appears in Noah and Roley's relationship. Roley is left to reflect in despair.

I continue to really enjoy this story.  It is an Australia I recognise.  I will explain.  While my upbringing was about as urban as can be, my mother's family is from the country, and as children, we spent a number of holidays,  with my country cousins, feeding chooks, milking cows and riding horses.  Country people, even to this day, have elements of the Gillian Mears's characters.  They are often not big on talking, and are more likely to come out with an astute and pithy one liner, than endlessly discuss the merits of this or that, as I enjoy doing. 

I can see the house at One Tree in my mind's eye.  So for me Mears accurately and magically recreates an authentic rural family setting.  Those WWII times are not that long ago, and even less time seems to have past in a lot of rural areas.  The corrugated iron, the stock rails, and the endless cycle of animal care;  I love how she has captured all of these elements.   She also captures the common sense and make-do attitude of the people that go with these settings.  For me, the tensions that exist within, and between the characters, ring completely true.

I do feel involved with the characters and really look forward to learn where their lives lead next.  The high-jumping circuit no doubt beckons for Noah and her daughter Lainey, but it will be interesting to see how Roley will endure his secondary role.  I wonder how Lainey and her brother George, who have led quite an isolated life thus far at One Tree during the war, will cope with the show circuit, especially given their mother's pent up emotions seem likely to burst through at any moment, and their father retreats more and more into himself.


  1. I'm really enjoying reading your thoughts Mel - so far you've managed to put in writing what I've been thinking but don't seem to be able to articulate properly :-) Reading this book has been a totally visual experience for me, and I can see One Tree too, especially the Jacaranda. It really does ring true which is amazing really that someone who wasn't alive at that time can create it on a page and communicate it to another person who wasn't alive then either!

  2. It is interesting seeing how differently we are all reacting to this book!

    I am a farmers granddaughter, and I can appreciate what you are saying. I think it is difficult for me to get past the issues that I am having with it.

  3. Danni - thank you :) I think your point about communicating of unknown times and worlds beautifully sums up the magic and wonder of good fiction.

    Marg - I completely appreciate your point of view on the novel (your views on any novel actually). I am behind in my reading as of today due to work stuff, but I am interested to see how the abuse in Noah's early life plays out in her future.


Comments are very welcome.