Saturday, October 22, 2011

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears - Read-along Part 3

Hosted by The Book Nerd Club, this week those participating in the read-along read from Chapter 14 to Chapter 19 of Gillian Mears' new novel, Foal's Bread. So, I feel almost like I've been playing a team sport. We're at the end of the third quarter, and all quite exhausted. But determined to finish, and looking forward to the sense of achievement when the the final page is turned, win or lose.
   You can find the first quarter here, and the second quarter here.

I have to admit, I think I'm a lazy reader. I've promised to work hard, and not fail as a reader with this novel. However, I don't like working hard! I like the writing in a book to be beautiful, smooth and flowing. Then, I can focus on the characters and the story and the issues. With Foal's Bread, the writing is clunky - that's the word I've used before, and will continue to do so. Last week, I explained that I think I've overcoming the clunkiness by reading slower. Reading slowly just frustrates me.
   However, this week, with physical and conscious effort (which is why I am panting with exhaustion as I write this blog), I ignored the writing and focused on what I think Mears is trying to do. It really helped me to read some other reviews of this book, and to do some research into Mears herself.  I can now appreciate the subtlely. Although the characters still irritate me, I can have more insight into why they are the way they are.
   Spoiler alert
   I can't feel a happy ending coming. If Noah somehow deals with her abuse issues and emotional distance, gets over her loneliness and jealously, and everyone lives happily-ever-after, I will be very disappointed.
   The mother-in-law Minna continued to think that the sun shone out of her son's you-know-what. When he died, her bitterness and hatred towards Noah is palpable. She's isolating Noah, treating her like a working animal, or worse. She even says to Noah that it should have been Noah that died, not Roley.
   Noah's behaviour is unforgivable, though. I understand what's driving her to drink, but I don't understand why she's taking out the anger and disappointment she feels for herself, on her daughter, who appears to be the only one left who loves her. It was also interesting how Mears barely mentioned Noah whilst Roley was deteriorating, bed-bound, and dying, except when she was suggesting getting some arsenic into him, or was forcing open his jaws to force feed him whilst he was trying to starve himself. Noah's cruelty is also getting worse, and she continues to tie her son up on a running rope, like a dog.
   My favourite parts this quarter were:

  • The 'irresistible glee of betrayal' that Ralda felt when dobbing Noah into Minna, was described as 'stalking in under her apron cord'.
  • When Mr Cousins says to Minna 'love your own but respect everybody else's'.
  • When Roley dies, to radio works for a couple of seconds even though the batteries are dead. Roley's dog is jumping up and down into the air, as if to greet him. And a ring of light ascending into the sky is seen by Lainey and Minna, and Lainey gets the feeling that her father is galloping on horse back.
  • Getting George's pony into the truck by linking arms behind its rump. I remember having to do something similar whenever a horse wouldn't go into the float. A bit of pressure applied to its rump, by either linked arms or a rope, works a treat.
  • Lainey referring to dressage with distain - 'circles and riding neat figures of eight on the flat'.
  • Lainey taking off the spurs, and realising she doesn't have to be exactly like her mother.
  • Lainey learning that the 'impossible becomes possible when the valley inside your belly lays itself open': what a beautiful concept.
  • Noah's jealousy being described as a front hoof crack.
  • All hope at One Tree is gone and symbolised through the cracking of the 'hope on, hope ever' plate.
Although I did some searching, I don't know what Wizard Lighting is. It seems like some kind of piped gas system.
   Also, I'm not sure what Chalcey and Chalcedite means. Was it the name of the original family that bred this particular kind of horse or colour?
   And what rhyme went Flackety-Flack?


  1. The quote about the impossible becoming possible caught my attention to. This week's reading wasn't quite such hard work for me.

  2. I also commented on Chalcedite - I still don't know what it means and thought I had missed something. We are having to work as readers but if I hadn't been part of the Readalong it's more than possible that I wouldn't have persisted. I am now glad that I have.

  3. One of the best things about doing this readalong is reading other people's reactions and how that impacts on my thoughts and interpretations of what I'm reading. I really love the writing and have become attached to the characters and what happens to them, even the ones I don't like at all! Looking forward to reading your final thoughts next week :-)

  4. Notes on the Wizard system: At Kyneton, Victoria, 'Kyneton Lodge' at 29 Donnithorne Street has
    pneumatic switches of the sort used in gas installations, and fine tubing connected to
    them suggests that they were for the Gloria or a similar system.
    Another product, which seems to have been similar to the Gloria, was the '"Wizard"
    hollow wire lighting and cooking system', details of which were published by Mayes
    in 1927:
    Benzine or petrol vapour is conducted from a "Compressor" through a fine
    copper tube or wire to the different positions of house required, using special
    burners and mantles, and cost from £50 to £60 upwards to instal; upkeep, 2/-
    per week average, 20 light machine. The cost of installation is extremely low
    and the upkeep much less than electricity, coal, gas, acetylene or kerosene.
    It was claimed to be suitable for cooking stoves or gas rings, and to have been made
    in Australia and designed for local climatic conditions,163 but it was in fact
    manufactured in England. The company had on office or agency in Flinders Lane,
    Melbourne.164 A Wizard cylinder and other equipment survive at 'The Hermitage',
    Barnawartha, Victoria.165 The cylinder is branded: