GILLIAN MEARS: WRY, POETIC, UNMISTAKABLY AUSTRALIAN AND GONE TOO SOON

Born in 1964, Gillian Mears was heralded as a bright new literary talent in the late 1980s. She wrote prolifically in her 20s and early 30s, and won several awards before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “Imagine, at the age of 31, beginning to stagger like a Kurt Vonnegut syphilitic,” she wrote. On the eve of her 38th birthday, Mears almost died from acute endocarditis – an infection of the heart. “The duel decline of my body,” wrote Mears “is a mystery I’ve yet to decode”. Her health hampered her career. She is as talented as her peers Tim Winton and Richard Flanagan, yet her work has never received the same attention here in Australia or overseas.

Nonetheless, in 2011 she published the novel Foal’s Bread. Set on the show-jumping circuit of 1930s Australia, the novel was both a love story and a tale of illness and unfulfilled dreams. It was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award and won the Prime Minister’s Literary award. Despite this acclaim, it was to be her last novel. By the time Mears wrote to me in February 2016, she had been bedridden for five years and was perhaps better known as an advocate for voluntary euthanasia than a novelist.

By Philippa Chandler; more at The Guardian, 20 May 2016

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Further reading

Foals Bread by Gillian Mears – review (by Alfred Hickling, The Guardian, 12 May 2012)

Vernacular at a gallop (by Helen Elliott, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 November 2011)

Podcast … ‘Gillian Mears: Foals Bread and living life’ (Sydney Writers Festival Blog, 26 May 2013)

A writer of rare talent: Kate Pardey reviews Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears Rochforde Street Review, 30 April 2012

Gillian Mears, author of Foal’s Bread, answers Ten Terrifying Questions Booktopia (John Purcell), 04 November 2011