Breath by Tim Winton

I think this is Tim Winton’s best novel.  He has lost his earlier pretentiousness.  His writing is spare, evocative and compelling. 

The tale is told by a paramedic in his 50s who attends an accidental hanging.   He knows it’s accidental because of events in his youth, and so you are drawn into this tale of coming of age.  Of a young boy becoming a teenager, who with his friend become acolytes of an enigmatic surfer.  A surfer who encourages them to risk everything for the rush that comes with living on the edge.

The rush that cuts through everything to make you feel alive.

It’s also the story of friendship, and of chips that we carry with us from childhood.

I felt a little creeped out by the book.  You want to like your hero right?  Instead I felt repelled.  But perhaps it was more that I was repelled at how easily he slipped into character traits that were less than seemly.  Maybe slipping into them is easier than we’d like to think. 

Groover thinks the book describes Tim.  I don’t like to think of him as that creepy myself.

Maybe that’s why I feel disturbed some hours after finishing it.

One other small niggle:  I hate the way Tim uses Angeles and Sawyer for the town names.  I find it a distraction and it gives me the irrits. 

I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Have you read Breath?

List of reviews

SMH article

The Australian

4 Replies to “Breath by Tim Winton”

  1. I read it a few months ago.
    I couldn’t put it down but the whole time I had an “uneasy” feeling reading it.
    Growing up in the same kind of town and era as Winton I always enjoy the familiarity of the things he writes about but the story and characters were a bit too dark for a “comfortable” read.
    And, like Groover, I thought it screamed autobiography which kind of creeped me out a bit!

  2. I read it. I agree that it’s ones of his better books. I like Winton because he shows you these less-than-perfect people and makes them somewhat sympathetic. Well, sometimes. The mother in “The Riders” was far from sympathetic.

    I though the book had a Great Gatsby kind of style–the real story was between the wife and husband (forgot their names) but it’s told through the teenager. I thought that was a good choice. Winton could have written the book through the eyes of the woman’s husband. But I think the way he wrote it, his choice of narration, was much more effective.

    Back to sympathetic characters, I feel that although the characters are dark and somewhat depressing, I can still understand them and relate to them. I have sympathy for them. In comparison, when I read “Taming The Beast” by Emily Maguire, those characters were WAY to dark for me. I had a lot of trouble finding sympathy for them. Instead, the best I could feel was pity.

    I’ve been reading some young adult books by Sonya Hartnett. Have you read any of her stuff? She reminds me a lot of Winton. Very depressing books. But I have a hard time putting them down because the characters are so sympathetic. I want to jump in the books and save all the characters–comfort them.

    Anyway, I think the reason I liked this book best of Winton’s is I understood the ending!!! Usually, I understand most of the book but then I get to the end and am really confused. I STILL don’t understand who and what the Riders were and how they were connected to the story. I did love that book though.

  3. Do I know Tim? No. I have met him – I think I interviewed him – around the time Cloudstreet came out – in other words a very long time ago.

    My memory is of a quiet man, young, and with a long ponytail.

    In other words I have probably not added to what is already known about Tim. 🙂

    Dina – I must say I thought The Riders was awful. I didn’t get it at all and it put me off reading Winton’s work for many years.

    PB – It was only the end that creeped me out… all the surfing stuff I really liked… and I liked the rivalry between the two boys. It seemed real. The relationship with Eva seemed harder to fathom.

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