This is the fourth Tim Winton novel I've read and is certainly as enjoyable as the likes of Cloudstreet, The Riders or Dirt Music. If anything, in each successive work Winton seems to further refine his amazing ability to write so sparsely and yet convey so much. In particular, the opening section of this novel lasts for just a few pages and yet immediately paints a devastating portrait which, when you stop to think about it, has mostly been painted by you in your own mind as it expanded on the brief but perfect promptings of the text. The mark of a master novelist.
The story takes place in an Australian coastal town dominated by its sawmill and not much else. Two bored teenagers become friends and then fall in with an older man who turns out to be a world-class surfer. As the narrative develops, there are numerous accounts of surfing adventures which, on the face of it, could grow tedious - and yet, once again, the precision with which Winton describes the moods of the ocean, and the exhiliration and danger experienced by those who seek out the big waves, leaves you with a very real picture.
It's almost like watching a movie and it builds to a tense climax and then cleverly brings you back to the beginning. I won't go into specifics as I don't want to spoil it for anybody. In short, this is one of those books that is hard to put down, which you live whilst you read it and which leaves you with a satisfying sense of having learnt something you can't define. Very, very good.