sometimes witty book reviews
TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions family violence, rape
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that my opinion of Australian literature is not the highest on record. I blame high school English. Specifically our term studying a collection of Tim Winton’s short stories entitled Minimum of Two (1987). For almost half a decade afterwards I avoided reading any Australian non-fiction writing. The memories of those agonising English lessons, dragging out essay after essay on the themes of Winton’s writing and it’s place in our literary history were too fresh and too goddamn boring.
Hence it was with great trepidation that I committed to reading another Winton short-story compilation, The Turning. Winton is known for his bleak and honest depictions of Australian life. These are usually located in coastal, country townships and frequently concern issues such as family violence, depression, isolation etc. and usually have a coming of age thread running throughout. His short stories in particular are poignant, often disturbing and frighteningly real, particular to those familiar with Australian bush, country and coastal life. Maybe that’s why I find Winton so difficult to read. I could have ended it before I started, closed the pages and let the darned thing along after the first story. Yet a very book-savvy and intelligent friend had recommended it and so, in honour of our friendship, I pushed through.
Winton’s descriptions are vivid, they stay with you long after characters and plot have faded. I clearly remember scenes of a young girl thrashing through the ocean, a convicted rapist jogging by the beach and a pair of distended breasts from Minimum of Two. And I doubt I will forget a huge shark being towed into shore by a converted ute or a wife being bashed by her husband in a caravan park in The Turning. Love him or hate him, Winton gets stuck in your head and is undeniably good at what he does. There’s not much more I can say.
Reading Suggestions: If you must.