'It is a love story of impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams 'turned inside out', and miracles that never last.'
I shudder when I think of how very close I came to giving up on this book. For a hundred pages I struggled with a writing style I wasn't sure I liked and dialogue I found jarring - a strange way of speaking that dropped 'the' and 'a'. But I was caught up in the story of 'the girl with a boy's name' and very soon I fell under the spell of the simple but beautiful, poetic prose.
Set in rural New South Wales, Australia the story begins in 1926 when Noah/Noey is 14 and on the road with her drover father. Alone one evening, she undergoes a traumatic experience and the choices she makes will haunt her for the rest of her life.
Noey is a talented horsewoman and rides in high-jumping events on the show circuit. Here she meets and later marries Roley Nancarrow, Australia's top show jumper, and the couple move in with Roley's parents and sisters at One Tree Farm with big dreams of the horses they will breed and ride to success.
Interweaving gorgeous descriptions of the landscape with the day to day practicalities of farming life the story follows the Nancarrow family through two decades of changing fortunes. It's not always easy reading as the author touches on many sensitive issues and I doubt there will be any reader who won't feel a connection to their own life experience among them.
The characters are very human - they have flaws and failings including an inability to communicate their true feelings. There were times I so disliked Noey, her behaviour and the ways she chose to express her despair and anger , yet I could still understand what drove her to it.
Painful , sometimes cruel, and achingly sad, Foal's Bread made an intense emotional impact and is the best book I've read so far this year.