Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 17, 2009

Breath, by Tim Winton


breathOh dear, what can I possibly write about Breath without invoking great angst and derision from his legion of devoted fans?  It’s Tim Winton’s first book in seven years, Winton the Environmentalist is a hero to lovers of pristine coastlines, the book’s on the Miles Franklin shortlist (which he’s previously won three times) and there are long lyrical passages about surfing…

I think Winton needs to get out a bit more.  I thought so when I read Dirt Music, and I thought it again when I read The Turning.  It’s his business, I suppose, if he wants to be the Thomas Hardy of whatever Western Australian coastal small town he lives in, but I think that he is wasting his talent because he hasn’t travelled enough and he doesn’t seem to meet a diversity of people.  Why are all his characters such depressing losers?

BEWARE: SPOILERS

By about half way through this novel, I was fed up.  The only interesting character is the ambulance paramedic from chapter one who disagrees with his colleague about suicide as the cause of Aaron’s death – and Bruce the Adult vanishes from the story.  Instead we have the nostalgic boys-own-adventure story of Bruce and his mate Looney, who spend their adolescence chasing one risk after another, egged on by their guru Sando.  There are long sections about the joys and perils of surfing, which I am soooooooooo not interested in.  It doesn’t take long before it’s also quite obvious where Winton is going with the theme of adolescent experimentation with risky behaviour and how it links up with Aaron’s death.   He has written his own spoiler in the opening chapter (and he does it again on p157) because it is so obvious that the world-weary Bruce regrets the loss of a risk-taking friend, and it just becomes a matter of guessing which one it will turn out to be.  And that’s not hard at all.

I know I’m going to be howled down by everyone for this dismissive review – try not to be too cross, dear readers!

Author: Tim Winton
Title: Breath
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (Penguin) 2008
ISBN: 9780241015308
Source: Personal library, purchased from Readings, $34.95


Responses

  1. Oh no!. Well you know I loved this book (not unreservedly, but still its good). We will have to agree to disagree.

  2. I know: I read your excellent review:)
    I expect I’m in a very small minority here….

    Lisa

  3. I agree with you. I felt as if I’d read it all before in The Rider, Dirt Music and The Turning. If it was the only book he had ever written, it would be brilliant, but after nearly thirty years he seems to have written HIMSELF over and over again.

  4. It turns out we are not alone. No less a personage than Kerryn Goldsworthy had this to say on the ALR Blog ….”frankly I don’t understand the degree of fuss being made about Breath, in which Winton does very little that he hadn’t already done before, and which partly rests on some ugly assumptions about women” See

  5. As an expat I find Winton’s books a perfect reflection of Australian society. He repeats the same themes repeatedly because that is the limit of the Australian ‘psyche’. We don’t have a Bach, a Shakespeare, a Rembrandt etc. so we have developed a beach culture. David Williamson writes about nothing as well, and also wins awards. Peter Carey comes from advertising, and this shows in his writing, which lacks the finesse or imagination of Patrick White at his best. We have Patrick, and then kilometres behind come the rest.

  6. I thought I was going to die of boredom when I was reading all those pages about surfing….

  7. yep, pretty much agree with this review. I’m a big fan of Tim Winton and I love his evocative writing and his control over language, but this story left me feeling a bit bored. And I’ve got a few questions that I’d love someone to answer: Why doesn’t the paramedic just tell his partner about the boy’s death? What’s the big deal? It’s not like it’s something people have never heard of. Why doesn’t just she know anyway? And secondly, why does the guy go crazy? I found that pretty sketchy. Did anyone find that believable?

    • Good questions, Kim. It felt to me as if the whole structure was subordinate to the ‘breath’ motif and events and characters had to be made to fit.

  8. [...] Breath by Tim Winton [...]


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 510 other followers

%d bloggers like this: