Tag Archives: Tim Winton

Tim Winton, Eyrie

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I discovered this author last year after an Australian colleague recommended Cloudstreet. While Cloudstreet was fantastic both for its writing and insight into Australian life, I like this second foray into Tim Winton’s work a lot less. The writing is good, and he tells a compelling story about people who have encountered difficulties in life and are trying to cope (loss of job, health issues, marriage breakup, imprisonment of a child, dealing with that child’s offspring). Unfortunately, he touches on one of my pet peeves, the drug culture and drug-related violence, which I would much rather not hear about, even though it is very much part of real life for some people.

So I do like the writing, it is fresh and vibrant, full of regional expressions. I bought this book from Google and read it on my Android device. It was a good thing that the downloadable dictionary had a lot of Australian words, much better in that respect than my Kobo on which I read Cloudstreet.

Whereas Cloudstreet was set in the more distant 20th century, Eyrie takes place in the present time, with cell phones and texting featured as significant modes of communication. It is also set in the current business environment, where the dominant business in Western Australia is mining by powerful, giant companies. Tom Keely, the main character, is an environmental activist that lost his job after some scandal (maybe libel). In a moment of discouragement he thinks that maybe he could go work for one of the mining companies headquartered in Perth, handling public relations, but on second thought he tells himself that he could not live with that.

Tom runs into Gemma, who was a neighbor that his parents had taken in when her family was experiencing problems, and now lives on the same flour as him in a large appartment building in Fremantle. They have not seen each other since they were children. Gemma lives with her grandson Kai, because her daughter is in jail. She is threatened by her daughter’s companion, Stewie, a small time drug dealer, who wants money from her. Tom tries to help her, even taking her to his mother’s house for shelter. The conversations between Tom and his mother, as well as his memories of both his parents and his childhood neighborhood bring to light the complexity of their relationship, and the complicated consequences that being kind to others can have.

Thoughout this stressful time, Gemma refuses to call the police. Things to come to a head when Stewie sends one of his associates to attack Tom.

References

Winton, Tim. Eyrie. Harper Collins: Sydney, Australia, 2013.

Other things:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/30/eyrie-by-tim-winton-review-tower-block-blues

http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2013/october/1380549600/peter-conrad/tim-winton-s-eyrie-and-richard-flanagan-s-narrow-road-dee

http://www.sydneyreviewofbooks.com/the-quality-of-mercy/

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/firsttuesday/s3866109.htm

Tim Winton, Cloudstreet

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A classic of Australian literature, Cloudstreet tells the story of two families full of individuals with a very wide array of wondrous personalities who share a huge house in Perth over a 20 years period.

The first family we meet are the Pickles, who inherit the great big house upon the death of a relative who was sheltering them after the father lost the fingers of one hand in a work accident. They move from Geraldton to Perth to take possession. They must keep the house for at least 20 years without selling it. Sam, the father, is an inveterate gambler with bad luck, and while having a house is nice, the family still has no money to live on. To alleviate this problem, they decide to rent out part of the house.

So, the Lamb family moves in after abandoning their beach-side property after the near drowning of the favorite son, who emerges from the ordeal brain-damaged. They are very industrious, especially Oriel, the mother. She decides to open a general store in the front room and thanks to her dedication the family does well although they never become rich.

In spite of sharing this house, the two families never become close and are often quite at odds with each other and seem to love criticizing each other.

What is striking in this book is the depiction of family relationship. There seems to be a strong sense of loyalty to family, but little tenderness between family members. Both fathers are weak characters. In the case of Sam Pickles, gambling is the weakness. Lester Lamb, on the other hand, maybe a bit lazy but relies on his strong principles and religious background to guide his actions. He does tend to be indecisive to his wife’s great frustration.

In the end, the Pickles daughter marries one of the Lamb boys. They mean to move away to assert their independence but miss their respective families so much (as well as the great big house they both claim to despise so much) that they move back there, to new grand-parents great delight (they did miss having a “nipper” around).

You’ll need to find a good list of common Australian colloquial expressions to decipher some of the dialogue, but the authenticity of it is one of the great charms of this book.

Many thanks to my colleague Rebecca in Brisbane for recommending this book! Loved it!

A lot of clips from the TV series based on this book seem to be available on You Tube.

Monday Night Ramblings: Sometimes, trying to hard to read a lot gets me nowhere

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In spite of the constant exhaustion of the past few months, I manage to get quite a bit of reading done, but it seems I have a lot less patience for obscure prose, colloquial language from other places, and textbook materials.

The book I read the most from this weekend is a 1991 Australian novel by Tim Winton, called Cloudstreet, that was recommended by an Australian colleague as a good place to start to sample Australian literature. So far, it’s a really fun read, basically the intertwined histories of two families living in Perth, with their ups and downs, small successes and tragedies, set mostly in post-war years. By post-war, I mean post-Second-World-War, as there may be others… I think that the Australian words and expression I don’t know don’t get in the way of enjoying the story. Honestly, if Kobo dictionaries don’t find the word, I look no further and keep reading. The story does move along at a good clip.

I am also started reading Cultural Amnesia, a series of essays on a variety of cultural figures, by Clive James, an Australian writer living in England. His comments are organized alphabetically and so far I am on “A”. Gotta keep reading.

And even though I still love Per Olov Enquist, I find myself struggling through Hess, so far the most difficult and obscure book I have read from this author. I regularly get lost in the story, lose track of who is talking, of whether the narrator is telling the story or just commenting on the research process to write the story. Seriously, I love PO, I just don’t love this book.

And I have a pile of human resources textbook to get through my professional credential in HR: general human resources, talent acquisition, labour relations, remuneration, health and safety. And I have little patience for reading textbooks these days. Once the workday is done, there is not much time available before I have to work on the 8-9 hours of sleep I need everyday.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Winton

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_James

http://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/comment-l-ecriture-a-sauve-per-olov-enquist_853619.html

http://www.swedishbookreview.com/article-2004-s-smith.asp