|Gillian Mears has had a big year with her novel Foal's Bread, being shortlisted for most of the major Australian literary awards, and winning a few of them, including The Age Book of the Year Award and the Prime Minister's Literary Award. She spoke to Estelle Tang for the "Kill Your Darlings" weblog.|
In the preamble to Foal's Bread, there's an exhortation: 'Man, woman, boy or girl, when you arrive at the jacaranda tree, take a lick of your horse's salty neck.' Is this something you did when riding a horse? What of your own experiences on a horse did you draw on for this book?
I grew up in northern NSW, in Grafton, and probably from the age of 9 to 20 nothing was more important for me than riding horses, and horses. Grafton is a very subtropical, humid town, so often there were lots of storms. So prior to a storm, the humidity builds - and my horse would often develop a very deep sweat. So it was a just a delicacy, really, to take a little lick.
Was that out of dehydration or was it more of a physical bond you felt with the horse?
The latter. It was a playful thing to do. It's incredible how salty a horse's neck is. I had read somewhere that during World War I the soldiers would be very starving for salt so they would lick the light horses. That always stayed with me.
It is beautiful how memories can coalesce in a way that is unexpected, especially throughout a life that goes unfulfilled. I want to talk about that great chasm between promise and lack of fulfillment. What is it about fallen dreams that strikes us so much when we read other people's stories?
I knew when I set out to write Foal's Bread that I did want to fill my readers with a feeling of yearning. And the unfulfilled promise of Noah Nancarrow, nothing does that more profoundly for me. Lainey, her daughter, realises that the thing her mother most didn't want to be was mediocre. And with all the Olympics frenzy at the moment - there's something unbearably empty about winning, and yet it quite clearly pierces the public's longing for triumph. So I think I was interested in writing about those things in the high jump world, something which is a totally deceased world, really.