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An Open Swimmer [Paperback]

Tim Winton
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

2 May 2008

‘Winton’s writing is a heady blend of muscular description, deep sentiment and metaphysics’ Sunday Telegraph

A fishing trip marks the end of Jerra and Sean’s friendship, although once, when they were younger and more innocent, it would have seemed unbelievable that the bond between them – first forged by their fathers, and later sealed with their blood – could ever be broken. But growing up has meant growing apart, the differences between them widening, sharpening their teasing words into something crueller and less easy to forgive.

At once a haunting and a powerful exploration of the horrors and joys of adulthood, An Open Swimmer is also a meditation on past and present, a story of madness and murder, and of the punishing yet redemptive qualities of both fire and water.

‘His elegiac novels are uplifting and cathartic dissections of fractured men and women’ Independent

‘Winton has a fine ear for both intimate and monumental scales of drama’ Evening Standard

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (2 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330412582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330412582
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,235 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

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

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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good writing - but so full of sad longing 17 Sep 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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ok, but not as good as breath 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 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 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) 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still has power after 20 years 17 Sep 2003
By Steven Reynolds - Published on
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Nameless (Poetic/Erotic) Mysteries 26 May 2010
By Doug Anderson - Published on
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
2.0 out of 5 stars a disappointing read........ 10 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on
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'.
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