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An Open Swimmer Paperback – 2 May 2008

4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (2 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330412582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330412582
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 716,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tim Winton was born in Perth in 1960. He has written novels, collections of stories, non-fiction and books for children. He is four times winner of Australia's Miles Franklin Award, most recently for his novel Breath, and has twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, for The Riders (1995) and Dirt Music (2002).

Product Description

Book Description

Winner of the Australian/Vogel Award for Best First Novel, this is at once a haunting and powerful exploration of the horrors and joys of adulthood.

About the Author

Tim Winton was born in Perth in 1960. His work includes novels, collections of stories, non-fiction and books for children. He has won the miles Franklin Award three times, and been twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, for The Riders (1995) and Dirt Music (2002).

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Henk Beentje TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Sept. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
The book: Jerra and Sean are on a camping trip in their beaten-up VW bus, along the West Australian coast. Sean will go back to his clerk job, but Jerra is both jobless and restles, searching for meaning and poetry. The best mates seem to be growing apart. and flickering bits of the past are interspersed with the present to build up a story that explains while building up the tension...

My opinion: Winton's first book, from 1982: well-written, but full of hopeless longing, wistful loneliness, empty, no escape, and infinitely sad. The writing is more than four stars, but something so full of burden-memories, guilt, and no future leaves me drained; and I like to get more out of a book than a sad feeling (I can read the papers for that)... I prefer his later 'Breath'. It is a bit like that great Australian band the Triffids' album Born Sandy Devotional, especially the track Estuary Bed - very good, but too sad for me...
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Format: Paperback
It's worth a read if you're a fan of Winton's work. It doesn't have the accomplishment of later works but it is still a fine piece of writing. Where Winton excels is in his use of the vernacular but in a poetic way.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sione Tapili on 14 April 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was a little disappointed after loving breath, I thought this would be more of the same. It is a little slow to get going and because of the way it is written takes a little more focus to follow both story and dialogue. The dark story of two friends who, for reasons that emerge through out the narrative, have drifted apart. It also tells a tale of how relationships shape our lives. Not bad but I could take it or leave it.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MR K P LEWIS on 7 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Been told great for those who can read. Does exactly what I bought it for! uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uhuh
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Still has power after 20 years 17 Sept. 2003
By Steven Reynolds - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This simply written yet surprisingly sophisticated coming-of-age story set in Western Australia was Tim Winton's first novel. It won the Vogel Award in 1981 and, reading it now, it comes as no surprise that Winton has gone on to become a multi-award winning, Booker-shortlisted novelist. Two qualities much admired in Winton's short stories of the same era - a straightforward simplicity of language, and a steadfast, minimalist refusal to explain everything for the reader - are employed very effectively here. In the stoic interaction of his male characters he captures that paradoxical combination of qualities we tend to associate with Australian men: a reserved bluntness. Yet there's nothing unsophisticated about Winton's craft. There are some well-chosen motifs which resonate through the novel - the notion of 'diving into the wreck' (set up with an epigraph from Adrienne Rich's poem); a sense of anxiety about masculine identity, established in the prologue episode and echoing through all that follows; and the final explanation of the 'open swimmer' that folds back and makes new meaning out of much that has come before it. Far from being pretentious, forced or merely decorative, these 'literary' touches are gently deployed, quietly amplifying the themes of the novel and elevating it from a conventional coming-of-age teen drama into the realm of serious literature. Winton's refusal to neatly resolve every strand of Jerra's story is true to life, too - something which many coming-of-age stories, usually written by or from the perspective of nostalgic middle-aged men, are not. Winton published this when he was only 22, which might have something to do with it. It's clearly a young man's novel, but it rings with the truth of lived experience. For that reason, it still has something to say.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Nameless (Poetic/Erotic) Mysteries 26 May 2010
By Doug Anderson - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Open Swimmer is an unusual hybrid. On the one hand it borrows from the masculinist traditions of Hemingway (esp. of the Nick Adams stories), but on the other hand it complicates that masculinist tradition with its other main influence, Sylvia Plath. The characters in masculinist literature often quell emotional/psychic turmoil indirectly by escaping into the wild and hunting and fishing; whereas the characters in feminist literature often work out their psychic issues by directly confronting them in verse or in dairies. Jerra, the main character in The Open Swimmer, does a bit of both.

The book is often categorized as a coming-of-age novel. It is that but I think it makes more sense to read the book as a story about trauma. To a certain extent all coming-of-age stories involve trauma but the trauma that the main character of The Open Swimmer is working through is so unusual and so central that it places the book in another kind of category. The allure of the book is that this central trauma is never named (at least not directly) but this is also one of the books liabilities.

Although the exact nature of that traumatic event is never named or explained, every episode of the book alludes to it. In place of a description of that central trauma, we get a detailed examination of its effects. To a certain extent this works but this also leaves the story feeling incomplete and the reader unsatisfied. It is obvious that Jerra is weighed down with the memory of his trauma and every one of his actions can be read as literal and/or symbolic attempts to come to terms with that trauma; and it is also clear that Jerra reads the letters and diaries of family members in an attempt to understand his own trauma in the context of a larger family trauma. But too much remains sketchy, unclear, only hinted at.

Jerra is damaged goods, so, not too surprisingly, he is drawn to individuals who have also been traumatized in some way. What remains unclear is whether he has always been drawn to unusual, poetic and or tragic types due to a natural inborn temperament (and that life itself feels traumatic to him) or if one central event disrupted an otherwise normal life and left him feeling stranded in the world. This and much of the book is simply unclear. What is clear enough is that Jerra's deepest connection (and this puts the book squarley in the realm of masculinist fiction) is to the fish that he ritually preys upon. Jerra's masculinist side is drawn to the outdoors where he can escape the complications and meanings of human entanglements/histories and draw simpler and more personal meanings and confidence in his abilities from his outback survivalist excursions. One might say that his feminist side is less certain of the masculinist import assigned to such struggles and more interested in viewing these masculinist excursions as feminine attempts to plumb his own psychological depths. The natural imagery is often feminized and eroticized. Most masculinist lit ends with a sense of domination having been achived, but Winton is not interested in taking the usual route through this terrain. In fact at books end it does not appear Jerra is at all interested in mastery.

The book may be too overripe with suggestive symbolism for some reader's tastes. It may prove too confounding for readers who want more concrete/digestible content. What I think we have here is a book written by a young man who is not yet willing or not yet able to identify exactly what it is that troubles him and so everything feels a bit muddy. But this book will apeal to readers who like the freshness and enthusiasm of first books over the more polished quality of later and surer efforts.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
a disappointing read........ 10 Aug. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I found 'An Open Swimmer' a very disappointing novel. As a student of English Literature in year eleven, I was required to read the book as part of the course. Personally, I found that Winton seemed to try and make it an abstract piece of writing. This attempted style of writing on Winton's part makes 'An Open Swimmer'seem too concocted and unnatural.
I was disappointed also as I am a great admirer of Winton's other works like 'Cloudstreet' or 'Shallows'.
An Impressive Debut 23 Feb. 2015
By Michael Haig - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An Open Swimmer, hot on the unfortunate heels of Jack Rivers and Me as a winner of the Australian/Vogel award for an unpublished manuscript by a writer under the age of 35, show-cases the concerns and the way of putting them which Tim Winton deploys to such popular and critical acclaim in novels such as Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath. There is nothing much callow about this work by the twenty-one year old writer. It has force: "Knots of guts fell onto the rock. The gulls hung, cackling. He washed the clean, firm, curving fillets, and kicked the offal into the pool that was scummed at one edge with a skin of larvae. Flies walked on the water's skin." Winton gets his descriptive claws into the landscape like no other literary lion.

An Open Swimmer is a story about a young university drop-out, Jerra, who fails to find the golden fleece, a pearl in the head of a turrum fish. Nothing, career, family, even romance, is enough to satisfy his nebulous longing. He seems to be writing a particularly bad poem, family pressures result in his temporarily working a conventional job in a corner store, he seems to have had an affair with his best friend's mother -- but these concerns are subordinate to the all-consuming quest.

Yet An Open Swimmer is not a romantic work of art. Winton fairly revels in a modernist/postmodernist preoccupation with degradation -- vomit, spittle, excrement, anxiety, angst, ugliness: "A bottle left them flat -- stung, on the back lawns of mates whose parents were away. Chundering in the long grass, against the rickety pickets." It is a long time since "like a patient etherised upon a table", that registering of discordant modernity, but it is the tradition which the Americans began which Winton carries on with such gusto.

Winton, working hard, in An Open Swimmer opens up a new landscape -- new meanings and nuances: "Breathing hard in struggling gulps, and he spat things before going down again, feeling the sappy weed stroking his face, eating into his cheeks." It is perhaps necessary to resort to French to decipher this new sense of 'eat': the fifth sense of 'manger' in Le Petit Robert 2006 is "Faire disparaitre en recouvrant, en debordant" (to cause to disappear by covering, by overwhelming (my translation)). Winton's sense of 'eat' might have a similar obliquity to the main sense of consume. (You get the fifth sense of 'manger' in Samuel Beckett's Molloy.)

Family has some presence in An Open Swimmer. Jerra's father is somewhat of an authority figure, pressuring Jerra to get work. In spite of the modernism/postmodernism Winton adheres to, there is little sense of the breakdown of this tried and trusted institution, of which all men speak well (Eliot). In Winton's fiction family is kept intact: the complete breakdown implicit in Beckett has not been arrived at. Yet, perhaps, the modern powers of disruption, destruction, rebellion are waiting in the wings.

Jerra's family pays a visit to Jerra's grandfather, and it is like a scene out of Philip Larkin's "The Old Fools": "[T]he hairless old man watched them come. His eyelashes were gone and the eyes were those of a reptile or a bird. His father's would be the same. Hands, the colour of ash, clawed the sheets." But Winton's relish of the gnarly details seems to outweigh the existential paralysis Larkin was driven to. The hospital nurse, quickly making a timely entrance, seems to save everybody from ultimate embarrassment. Winton's force surmounts all.

Winton is quite original. He is a modernist/postmodernist writer, but his powers of description have something original about them. His descriptions of sea-creatures are like Lawrence's descriptions of flowers: he is ever-attentive to their variety and individuality. His descriptive prose has power and poise, like a poem by James McAuley.

An Open Swimmer is an impressive first novel.
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