the turning, tim winton

The Turning, Tim WintonI’m a Tim Winton fan. Have been for ages.

CloudStreet is one of my most favourite books ever. I love the way this man writes.

But, I’ve been putting off reading The Turning because its a book of short stories and I always tell myself that I find short stories unsatisfying.

This is actually untrue, but I manage to convince myself of this fact regularly. I’m a short story snob.

If you are too and you’re avoiding this book for that reason – give it up for the turning now. It’s amazing and you must read it.

Now, it’s not as amazing as CloudStreet, but the intertwining of characters between each story, picking up the same story from various aspects in time or space or character perspective makes the book a really rich experience. I found myself thinking back on stories I’d read earlier, now with a new piece of information found in the story I’m currently reading… rethinking occurs regularly. Its part of the experience. I really liked that.

But, the reasons that everyone loves to read Tim Winton are found in spades in The Turning. His amazing use of language, so simple yet so evocative. His amazing ability to write the landscape of the Western Australian coast so that, even if you’ve never been there, you feel as though it’s an essential part of your personal history, as it is for so many of his characters. And his ability to write such utterly flawed and yet sympathetic male characters is extraordinary (and one of the reasons that CloudStreet is such a triumph).

This book is populated largely by male characters, but there is a scattering of women. Unfortunately, as he showed us in Dirt Music, Tim is not quite so skilled at writing women. Particularly the type of women found in the environments he evokes. Where he does broken men beautifully, it is hard to warm to his broken women. They don’t have the warmth and soul of his men, and as much as you want to, it’s just not possible to feel empathy with them. They’re hard and often brutal characters, as are the men… its just that the women are hard to forgive.

A few people I know think this is Tim Winton’s failing. Personally, I think its kind of reassuring that an author as masterful as he is still struggles with an aspect of characterisation. It gives us something to look forward to, I think.

Stop putting it off. Read it now.

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