Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 360 pp, 9781742376295
Gillian Mears has been to death’s door and back. Her wonderful essay ‘Alive in Ant and Bee’ (2007) recounts the journey and the exquisite pleasures of her life as a survivor. Writing has taken a back seat, understandably, over the past decade or so. There has been a short story collection, A Map of the Gardens (2002), but a novel from Mears is quite an event, sixteen years after her last, The Grass Sister (1995), won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It has been worth the wait. Foal’s Bread is a big and generous novel, set on a dairy farm in northern New South Wales in the mid-twentieth century: hard and often bitter times. In Mears’s world there is magic in the everyday, and portents everywhere.