Saturday, October 29, 2011

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears Readalong Part Four

The Foal's Bread Readalong is hosted by Danielle at The Book Nerd Club.  We have reached the end of the novel and so today's Readalong focuses on the final chapters, coda, and last thoughts.

Well, what a dramatic and moving finale!  And yes, spoilers follow. The whole narrative comes together in the final chapters.  From first to last, this has been Noah's story.  From giving birth as a child herself, in the lonely turbulent waters of Flaggy Creek, the story ends with Noah plummeting to her death, on her beloved horse, in those same waters.  The coda, which is written from Noah's daughter, Lainey's perspective, reassures the reader that Noah's courage and sacrifice enabled her daughter to lead a full life, outside of the shadow that she was forced to endure.

I think I have made it clear throughout, that I was moved by these characters, especially Noah.  The final chapters made me think of my own mother (now deceased) and while my mother did not face all of the same challenges as Noah, thank goodness, she did grow up in a simple country setting and faced some of the same obstacles, especially reduced opportunities.  Gillian Mears convincingly conveys what life must have been like before and after WWII for men,woman and children in rural Australia.  It could be a sparse and lonely existence, and the possibility that individuals could abuse their power over children, was often not even considered.

The hardest aspect of the novel for me was the "grooming" of Noah and her daughter Lainey, by their respective uncles.  This is very hard to read.  It was all too horrible to consider.  And to be honest I found myself, pushing aside the clues, in the later chapters that Lainey was singled out for abuse by her uncle.  My deliberately pushing aside, what I didn't want to see, in relation to characters I had become close to, I believe, accurately mirrors what can happen where individuals fail to acknowledge what they don't want to see, and like me, just hope for the best.  Good writing, like good art I think, can invite us to examine our reactions to something.  This worked for me here.

The words brave and courageous, are often used glibly, in my view,  to describe what an author chooses to tackle.  In this case, I feel that Gillian Mears was very courageous to unflinchingly incorporate these difficult aspects as part of Noah, and her family's story.  I would like to think that the environment we live in now is different, and there are more "checks and balances" so to speak, and that children have more of a voice, but we know that is not always the case, even today.

So yes, I shed a tear at the end, and I think it was mostly because Noah's story was so moving.  She had so few resources to call upon in terms of power and communication, but she was resolute and fierce when it came to protecting her daughter.

Overall, I think this is a remarkable book, I love the Australian context, the symmetry in the narrative, and the tone and style of the writing. Thank you, very much, to Allen & Unwin for the book, and a big thank you to Danielle for bringing the Readalong to my attention.


  1. Hi Mel, I'm so glad you joined in, in all your posts you managed to draw my attention to things I'd missed or shed light on them in a new way. Powerful writing isn't it? And I also really appreciate GM's willingness to go into the depths of the relationships between the abused and abuser - not easy reading, but an important thing for people to be aware of. I had a little cry too, Noah will definitely be on my mind for a long time to come.

  2. I think the key to this book is really how to connect or otherwise to Noah. Unfortunately it was otherwise for me. I am glad to see that other participants in the readalong enjoyed it though.

  3. I really enjoyed your insights into this novel - hard work, but ultimately rewarding.


Comments are very welcome.