by Tim Winton had, for me, promising beginnings. The cover artwork was intriguing. The Miles Franklin award was compelling (having read Three Cheers for the Paraclete
by Tom Keneally). Rediscovering modern Australian fiction was a factor. --So I purchased and began reading. One of the first things I remarked was the presumably 'postmodern' lack of quotation marks, taking me back to novels of the 1700s before they entered common use. No matter, one soon gets used to it.
The first chapter was promising indeed. A paramedic and his difficult colleague attending a teenage suicide (or "accidental" suicide) and dealing with his grieving, angry, confused family. Had the novel continued in this vein it had the potential to strike a chord with many readers, and maybe even do some good for humanity.
However, this was not to be. The novel takes a sharp turn to (presumably) the 1970s as the narrator is growing up and finding an identity in surfing. For the bulk of the novel, then, we read about progressively daring surfing exploits which, unless the reader is a surfer himself, becomes rather repetitious and (dare I say it) boring. Bruce Pike - or Pikelet as he comes to be known - leads a fairly solitary life, often shielding the truth of his lifestyle and exploits from those around him. The predictable sexual awakening takes an unconventional form, with hints of pædophilia and sado-masochism in startling form; this happens comparatively suddenly, leading to a close (hardly a dénouement in the conventional sense) which feels unmistakeably rushed and far more compressed than the bulk of the novel.
The very end is disappointing still, leaving a bad taste in the reader's mouth. The ending is not what one might expect from the way the novel opened - there is, for instance, no revisiting of the opening scenes and no explicit explanation of how the teen suicide is so obviously accidental to Bruce Pike.
Having read Breath - my first experience of Tim Winton - I feel that it is unlikely I will read any of his work ever again, and I felt that my intention to read this was unfairly misguided by the over-the-top list of gushing reviews filling three or four of the inside cover pages. This notwithstanding, I don't deny that Tim Winton is a gifted author and capable of evoking effectively the Australian landscape--he's just not my preferred type of author.
In sum: --
* First impressions, 3½ to 4 stars
* Overall, 1½ to 2 stars