The sound of horses’ hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn’t totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn’t died in the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he’s pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.
Noah Childs is just fourteen when she meets Roley Nancarrow at a country show, but their connection is instant. Both love to ride – and to jump horses. It seems they were meant to be together, and when, years later they marry, they feel unstoppable. They will form their own high-jumping team and travel the circuit an unbeatable pair. But first there are children to raise, and the family farm to work, and the Roley is struck by lightning. His damaged body becomes gradually unable to fulfill the dreams they once held, and the bond between the pair is stretched by hardship and pain.
Foal’s Bread is a heart-tugging tale of love and of survival, set against the backdrop of the high-jumping circuit of rural Australia prior to Word War 2. Across three generations of one family – Roley’s parents, he, his wife and sisters, and, their children, readers see the struggles of trying to survive financially and emotionally on a rural property. Common amongst all generations is a grittiness which shows strength and yet, when their is an inability to express need and emotion, it is this grittiness which stands in the way of happiness. The jumpers int he family – Roley and Noah, and later their daughter Lainey, all seem to share a desire to reach great heights, to fly as Noah puts it, which in Noah’s case is never quite reached.
This isn’t an easy book, but it is a beautiful one. There are moments of joy and of sadness, and anger, too.
Foal’s Bread, by Gillian Mears
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.