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Breath: A Novelby Tim Winton
Small things can deliver the biggest wallop. At just over 200 pages, Tim Winton's Breath is a slim but breathtakingly potent novel about coming of age, the bonds that unite us, and the rifts that can tear us apart with lifelong consequences. Lovers of vivid prose surely already know the name Tim Winton -- but if you don't, this is a perfect introduction you'll never forget.
Synopses & Reviews
Tim Winton is Australia's best-loved novelist. His new work, Breath, is an extraordinary evocation of an adolescence spent resisting complacency, testing one's limits against nature, finding like-minded souls, and discovering just how far one breath will take you. It's a story of extremes — extreme sports and extreme emotions.
On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrill-seeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. Together they form an odd but elite trio. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan ethos, a regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. But where is all this heading? Why is their mentor's past such forbidden territory? And what can explain his American wife's peculiar behavior? Venturing beyond all limits — in relationships, in physical challenge, and in sexual behavior — there is a point where oblivion is the only outcome. Full of Winton's lyrical genius for conveying physical sensation, Breath is a rich and atmospheric coming-of-age tale from one of world literature's finest storytellers.
"Signature Reviewed by David MaineThis slender book packs an emotional wallop. Two thrill-seeking boys, Bruce and Loonie, are young teenagers in smalltown Australia, circa the early 1970s. Their attraction is focused on the water — ponds, rivers, the sea — but they do little more than play around until they fall in with a mysterious, older man named Sando. He recognizes their daredevil wildness and takes it upon himself to teach them to surf. As the boys become more skilled, their exploits become more reckless; narrator Bruce (nicknamed 'Pikelet') has doubts about where all this is heading, while the aptly named Loonie wants only bigger and bolder thrills. This mix of doubt and desire intensifies when the boys make a discovery about their mentor's past.Surfing isn't the only dangerous game in town. As Sando's attentions and favor flip-flop from one boy to the other, the rivalry between the two, present from the beginning, grows stronger and more sinister. Sando's American wife, Eva, becomes more of a presence, too. She walks with a limp, has plenty of secrets of her own and becomes increasingly involved in Pikelet's life, in ways that even a 15-year-old might recognize as not entirely appropriate. Winton's language, often terse, never showy, hovers convincingly between a teenager's inarticulateness and the staccato delivery of a grown man: 'So there we were, this unlikely trio. A select and peculiar club, a tiny circle of friends, a cult, no less. Sando and his maniacal apprentices.' The language manages to summon up both the uncertain teenager and the jaded adult: 'It transpired that I was not, after all, immune to a dare,' Pikelet tells us at one point, with both the breathtaking unawareness of the boy and the irony of the man.Told from the perspective of the narrator's present life as a paramedic, Breath aims to recapture a long-passed episode in a boy's life and show how this shaped the man he grew into. The story contemplates what it means to be less ordinary in an era when 'extreme' sports hadn't even been recognized. (The fear of being ordinary is one of the terrors that drives these daredevils to push themselves ever further.) The author of 13 previous books, Winton is well-known in Australia and should be here. He touches upon important themes, of death, life, breathing and its absence, while looking dispassionately upon the relentless pursuit of thrills, pleasure, sex, status: the mundane obsessions of the ordinary and extraordinary alike. David Maine is the author of Fallen; The Book of Samson; and, most recently, Monster, 1959." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
I used to teach an undergraduate class in Australian literature. It was open to non-English majors and fulfilled a general requirement, so routinely a couple of hundred disaffected youths would crowd into a large classroom and emerge, at the end of the course, as dithering fanatics saving up for plane fare to Australia. They fell dead in love; they loved Peter Carey, Elizabeth Jolley and Thea Astley,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) but they worshiped Tim Winton. For a while they went around asking each other, "Why don't people know more about this guy? He's the most amazing man in the world!" And it's true. When Winton was still in his 20s he wrote "Shallows," a dark masterpiece about whaling that ranks with (or above?) "Moby-Dick." His "Cloudstreet" talks about class and caste and love and our inexplicable wish for death and our relationship to the universe. It's the Hope Diamond of novels — the one that set my students' teeth to chattering. He's produced 11 volumes of novels and short stories, but he lives in western Australia, one of the remotest parts of the world. People don't know about him. They don't know what they're missing. With a very few exceptions, Winton writes literally from where he is — from a young country originally populated by Aborigines, then 18th-century English convicts and their guards, layered with a wave of post-World War II immigrants. There's forest in western Australia and an ocean with some of the best surfing in the world, but it's not a luxurious place to live. He writes about trailer parks and long bus rides, about swimming, about whether travel abroad is worth the trouble. And he writes about human beings' relationships to their parents, lovers, spouses, children and the cosmos. He writes about how these relationships yield up great beauty, but also how we almost always screw them up. "Breath," Winton's latest novel, is stunning in the depth of its audacity. Because, when you think about it, breath is our relationship to the cosmos. We breathe in an iota of the universe, we breathe it out; without it, we die. But then why is there something in us that makes us want to hold our breath as kids until we pass out, or makes us just stop breathing while we're sleeping until our rattled partners shake us awake? In "Breath," Winton sets up an ancient Australian forest against a beautiful seacoast with plenty of turbulent weather — there seem always to be storms coming in. All this dwarfs a brutally ordinary little town with a mill where the father of a boy called Pikelet goes every day to risk his life. Pikelet is 11 when the novel begins and spends much of his free time swimming in the river, diving down, holding on to tree roots, holding his breath until he sees stars. That's how he meets Loonie, a year older, who shares the same obsession. Pikelet, little fish; Loonie — yes, he's crazy as hell. The two swim, dive, goof off, do odd jobs and finally bike out a few miles to the ocean where they meet some surfers. They also encounter a mysterious couple who could be from another planet: Sando, a bearded beach bum in his 30s, a fearless fanatical surfer, and Eva, his cranky wife, who — we find out later — used to be an extreme skier. She's suffered an injury and walks with a limp. Sando befriends the boys and teaches them (perhaps) everything he knows. This would seem to be a novel about surfing, from fiddling around with your first little Styrofoam board to riding waves that are three stories high and a mile offshore. The boys surf in secret; their parents disapprove (for different reasons) of them hanging out with this strange hippie couple. (The novel's main action takes place in the late 1960s and early '70s.) The boys' secret is dear to them; they crave the exhilaration of simply riding a wave, the terror that goes with the deprivation of air, the enormous relief of the first deep breath after having been scraped along rocks and sand for an eternity at the bottom of the sea. Surfing is only the metaphor. Why are Sando and Eva out here in the middle of nowhere? Why are their only friends two lonely little boys? Most coming-of-age novels end on a note of triumph. But "Breath" is about moving out of your depth, getting in over your head, having your soul damaged beyond repair. Two of the four main characters don't make it, and there's another inevitable death. But against all this pointless sorrow, there remains the evanescent beauty of the world, and Winton matches that with limitlessly beautiful prose. Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Winton is pitch perfect in capturing...adolescent angst, and he describes surfing and the sea so thrillingly that even nonswimmers will want to plunge right in." Library Journal
"Lyricism empowers this stoner rite-of-passage saga, which also conveys a timeless pathos." Kirkus Reviews
Tim Winton is Australias best-loved novelist. His new work,Breath, is an extraordinary evocation of an adolescence spent resisting complacency, testing ones limits against nature, finding like-minded souls, and discovering just how far one breath will take you. Its a story of extremes—extreme sports and extreme emotions.
On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrillseeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. Together they form an odd but elite trio. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan ethos, a regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. But where is all this heading? Why is their mentors past such forbidden territory? And what can explain his American wifes peculiar behavior? Venturing beyond all limits—in relationships, in physical challenge, and in sexual behavior—there is a point where oblivion is the only outcome. Full of Wintons lyrical genius for conveying physical sensation, Breath is a rich and atmospheric coming-of-age tale from one of world literatures finest storytellers.
Breath is a story of risk, of learning one's limits by challenging death. On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrill-seeking teenage boys fall under the spell of a veteran big-wave surfer named Sando. Their mentor urges them into a regiment of danger and challenge, and the boys test themselves and each other on storm swells and over shark-haunted reefs. The boys give no thought to what they could lose, or to the demons that drive their mentor on into ever-greater danger. Venturing beyond all caution--in sports, relationships, and sex--each character approaches a point from which none of them will return undamaged.
About the Author
Tim Winton was born in Perth, Western Australia, and is the preeminent Australian novelist of his generation. He has written twenty books, including the bestselling novels Cloudstreet, The Riders, and Dirt Music.
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