Saturday, October 15, 2011

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears - Read-along Part 2

Time already for the second instalment of our Read-along hosted by The Book Nerd Club, reading Gillian Mears' new Australian novel Foal's Bread.
   If you didn't already read the first part that I published last week, here it is. This week, we read from chapter 7 to chapter 13, inclusive. Beware that the following may spoil the novel/story for you, if you want to read this novel later.

I've got to say; I'm still struggling with this book. But, I will not fail as a reader. I think I've even changed my reading style to allow for the clunky writing. I'm reading more slowly, so that I don't have to reread passages that are written in the strange language that the characters speak in (has anyone noticed that the characters always leave out a 'the' in front of nouns?).
   There are some wonderful moments of writing, and when I come across something I particularly like, I quickly put a little star or scribble in the margin, so I can repeat some here:

  • After the foal is born, and they are worried that the mare is too old to survive the birth, Noah and Roley talk about poddies;
  • From Lainey's point of view, when she's remembering how much she loved their hand-reared Lamby, but then they all ate him with mint sauce;
  • The information that Phar Lap means lightning, or 'sky flash' (I haven't looked that up, and wonder if it's true?);
  • The description of Noah shoeing a horse, with the knife, then the nippers, then the rasp, so that the hoof will be neat and tidy and fit into the shoe when she hammers it on. This reminded me of watching the farrier who used to come and shoe my mother's horses. He wore the leather chaps and had the nippers and the rasp. The hooves always ended up so neat;
  • When the horse takes off and it holds its 'tail out like a flag'. What a great image, because they do hold their tails up when they are playful and frisky;
  • Noah being tender for once with the mare's 'beautiful nostrils the size of teacups', and the image of them breathing into each other's faces;
  • The metaphor of Roley's panic being like the 'little urgent marching feet' of the hens; and
  • Finally some jumping! Lainey in her father's saddle and the old gelding chewing on his bit - I got very vivid imaged during that scene as well.
Otherwise, like I said above, I am struggling. That is, until I sat down to write this post this morning, and I received an email from ANZ LitLovers LitBlog who had just reviewed Foal's Bread too. Lisa Hill, the blogger, writes that she also struggled with the book, and that it's not a book to 'enjoy', but may well be one of the most talked about novels this year. Her article articulates some of the deeper issues of the characters really well. The novel glosses over this too much, and Lisa suggests that Mears often assumes that her allusions would be understood.
   I still can't relate to the characters, although I am beginning to feel close to Lainey. The characters frustrate me. Both Noah's aunts and Roley's sisters merge into one character for me, because they are so similar. But after reading Lisa Hill's post at ANZ LitLovers, I can at least understand them a bit better, even if I can't feel any emotion for them (I didn't even get emotional when Roley was beating his useless legs and crying).


  1. I have been enjoying the imagery too. It needs to be strong to anchor this type of story where there are so many leaps in time.

  2. I know what you mean about the dialogue being difficult to read at first, but I've actually found that as I've been going I've become used to it and in some ways it feels really familiar. I'm blown away by her ability to create the language of that time with such consistency. I know a lot of other readers are finding this hard going too, so I think this will end up being one of those books that is a 'love or hate' kind of thing :-)