What a brilliant read : taut prose, utterly credible characters, searing picture of the Australian landscape and its people. Blurb said : Tim Winton is not only the greatest Australian novelist, he is a great novelist – full stop. I’ll say AYE to that. He doesn’t mess around with political correctness. You get to read about the druggies, the social misfits, the heavy drinking; local, dark past history, and the difficulties that the Aborigines face. His dialogue is sparse, authentic, and you just know, with every harsh biting word, that it’s all true of modern Oz. The three chief characters are haunted: Jim Buckridge – fisherman, small town king, haunted by the rep of his harsh reactionary father. Georgie Jutland, his lover – haunted by her failure with Mrs Jubail in the Saudi hospital; then the recent death of her mother, so she’s forced to resume her uneasy, out of kilter relationship with her family. Luther Fox is haunted by the accidental death of his brother, sister-in-law, their two kids, and the sudden removal of the music – their family band is destroyed in the car accident. Fox becomes a hermit, a poacher on the fringes of the hard White Point fishing community – he and Georgie meet and that changes both their lives forever. I devoured the book, soaking up the Western Australian/Kimberleys/North coast landscapes that Winton shows us. Can’t wait to read this exciting novel again.
DOWN UNDER – Bill Bryson
How I wish I’d read this before I went to Oz in 2003 and 2005. Bryson is such a genial travel companion with such an engaging humorous viewpoint that he’s able to feed his readers hefty chunks of facts in a painless manner. He’s always interesting, offering up unusual, odd, quirky little nuggets of fact as he drives around Oz (getting dreadfully sunburnt on his travels) and on one occasion, getting dreadfully drunk in a lonely Outback pub. You get a real sense of Oz’s vastness, its arid challenges, and the astonishing fact that there are still unexplored – or even undiscovered areas / treasures (particularly minerals) – in the Northern Territory. They remain hidden due to the very very difficult terrain in that area which discourages prospectors . Bryson discusses the Oz attitude to the Abo ‘problem’ – I think he captures very well the odd, drifting urban presence of the Aborigines, the marginalisation of them to the fringes of society. I saw it for myself and it felt just like apartheid South Africa – very familiar. This was the first Bill Bryson book which I thoroughly enjoyed. Previously I’d tried his Short History of Nearly Everything (or whatever it’s called), it was one of our Book Club books. I remember skipping big chunks, and didn’t enjoy it, although the rest of our Club liked the book.