Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears

After 16 years away from our bookshelves, Australian author Gillian Mears returns with her eagerly awaited new novel Foal’s Bread. Set in rural New South Wales between the two great wars, this touchingly told story traces the fortunes of the Nancarrow family as they battle to survive a harsh life on the land – and their own family tragedies. The language of the novel is powerful and poetic, and evokes a landscape that is in turn both beautiful and harsh. The Nancarrows must not only survive the elements, with drought, flood and fire ever present threats, but must also navigate their way through complex family relationships that constantly threaten to ruin them all. As a reader you find yourself wishing some of the characters would say what they feel and others would leave well enough alone!

Although she is not fully aware of it, young Noah Childs is already a broken girl when she meets and falls in love with Roley Nancarrow. In the years before the Second World War, the young couple is full of hope and certain that their passionate love will conquer all.  Life on the farm is hard work, but it seems there is nothing they cannot accomplish together. No hurdle is too high, both metaphorically and literally – as much of the book centres around horse show high jumping. But heartbreakingly it all starts to unravel and the entire family seems destined for sadness. While a somewhat melancholy read, Foal’s Bread is not a depressing novel. It is poignant and beautiful with stunning description of the landscape as well as lovingly crafted characters whose journeys the reader follows eagerly to the end.

Review by Andi Lawson-Moore @ greatescapebooks