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4.1 out of 5 stars
Breath
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Breath is a book of two halves. The first part is like the wild rush of a wave, full of youthful enthusiasm, lust for life, love of danger, the roar of the waves and nervous anticipation. The second half is far more dark, a downward spiral into the lure of reckless risk taking and the depression of betrayal and despair.
I originally heard Breath on Radio4 as the book at bedtime and was intrigued by it (although I kept falling asleep so missed much of it). The radio version seemed to miss out the intro which sets the scene very well; we meet Pikelet first as a mature adult, working as a paramedic. Then the majority of the book is a flashback to his youth, to the years when the surf dominated his life.
Breath is a coming-of-age novel, one which deals with how friendships between young men develop and fade, and how youthful hero worship can leave an impression which echoes for an entire lifetime.
Breath also explains why people take on extreme sports; why anyone risks their life to achieve something which exists only in a moment and then is less than a memory. I don't surf but I do engage in some risky leisure pursuits and Breath contains the best description I have ever read which successfully captures the moment of accomplishment, the split second of being-not-ordinary. It was worth reading for that alone.

I found Breath very, very easy to read and devoured it in two sessions. I happened to pick up the hardback (which I usually try to avoid) but it's a relatively small book unlike many socking great big novels which bog down before you get to the plot.
The later part of the book is harder going, however, and it deals with the nasty side of having a risk-taking personality. So while the early chapters carried my aloft like one of those massive breakers, the later ones crashed down just like that same wave hitting the rocks. The language and style is easy to read: the content is rather more hard going.
If you're not interested in surfing or in the development of risk-taking characteristics and their consequences then I can see that Breath would seem over-technical and essentially irrelevant.
But if you want to understand why people climb mountains, why they ride fast motorbikes, why they swim the Channel and why they seek out waves which are the size of houses, then Breath will open your mind and (give it a chance) it might also fill a little of your soul.
Thoroughly enjoyed it. Going to read more of Tim Winton's work now...
8/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An excellent book. Growing up in the southwest of the UK, and a lifelong surfer myself, this book gave me pangs of nostalgia for my own youth and took me back to the strange balance of fear and peer pressure that tempts you in to waves you shouldn't really be out in, staggering home half-drowned and battered. Winton has obviously been there too and perfectly describes the frightening fascination big waves have over surfers and the addictive mix of thrill and terror that riding them produce. The slang and terminology used is spot-on although reading it it did occur to me that readers with no knowledge of surfing wouldn't understand some of the words used - a scan of other reviews here will tell you that's not the case. Most novels mentioning surf get it so wrong - all blond hair and the word 'dude' - but Winton gets it so right.

There's much more to this book than the surf though. Winton tells the story of Pikelet, an australian grom growing up and learning to surf with his mate Loonie, under the tutelage of a grizzled old surfer named Sando. Sando is hardcore. A big wave surfer who has travelled the world and been in the magazines who now lives a surfer's idea of paradise near the beach, surfing empty waves on his own. Teaching Pikelet and Loonie all he knows, he trains them to take on big waves and a philosophy of riding waves for yourself, to prove yourself to yourself, to become extraordinary. Being able to handle big waves is secret knowledge that you carry in yourself and for no other reason. But why would Sando take on two apprentices if he only surfs for himself? The deeper reasons behind his motives are slowly revealed, as are his hypocrisies even as Pikelet makes discoveries about himself and his own motivations.

It's a short book, and I read it in a single sitting. This isn't a critiscim - I found I couldn't put it down as it's such a beautifully written book, capturing a time and place perfectly. Very highly recomended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 December 2008
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )Verified Purchase
This is the first novel I have read by Tim Winton, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. We get a novel that on the surface is about surfing, and whilst surfing does make up a significant portion of the novel it is not really what it is about. The book starts and end with loss, caused by autoerotic asphyxiation and it is the loss at the start which causes Pike (our protgonist) to launch into the story of his past.

Pike and Loonie, the local hell raiser in small town Austrailia meet with Sandro and famous surfer and form an unlikely bond. During their relationship with Sandro lots of surfing takes place, and it gets more and more extreeme, but this is used as a means of self dicovery within the book. The dynamics within the three are constantly changing. We find that Pike has limits, whereas maybe Sandro and Loonie don't have the limits of mere mortals...There is also Sandro's wife and Pike's relationship with her is maybe the hardest part of the book.

People will complain about the puctuation in the prose, but you can work out which words are spoken and which ones are not fairly easily - there were a couple of times when I wasn't sure, but none were critical to my understanding of what was happening.

This is a book about loss, courage, limits and surfing pretty much in that order. I liked it but I can understand why poeple would be put off by the subject matter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 1 January 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the first book that I've read by Tim Winton, though his name is one I've been conscious of for many years, ever since a Qantas flight attendant friend of mine who used to blow in from Melbourne every so often would intersperse scary tales of flight schedules with news of the latest, and unmissable in Australian fiction. And although I gratefully took up her recommendation of Thomas Keneally to my shame I never quite got round to Tim Winton. That is, until now.

And the first thing to say is that Tim Winton can write - so well, in fact, that, like one of his big waves, he sweeps the reader before him. Such is the poignancy and elegiac nature of this novel, however, that it needs really to be read in one or two - three at the most - sittings. In doing so this completely overcomes any perceived skimpiness in the plot department but also safely launches the reader from shallower waters into the deeply exhilarating and spellbinding final hundred pages.

If I might have just one half-hearted reservation it would be that the undertow of departed characters falls away rather too quickly, though maybe this is simply the price we have to pay for Winton having built them up so well in the first place. A minor quibble as I say, for in the end writing of such stupendous quality is such a rare event it should be grasped unconditionally.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Tim Winton is a seriously accomplished author. His powers of description, of tone, atmosphere and conveyance of mood are second to none. I first read Dirt Music a few months back and was delighted when this book was offered on the Amazon Vine programme.

Winton instantly transports you to an Australia he describes so vividly and sweetly. The story follows a middle aged man reminiscing about his teenage life in a small mill-town. He falls in with a wild boy called Loonie and the pair live out their surfing fantasies under the tutelage of the enigmatic and legendary Sando.

As the story and the surf becomes wilder the bond amongst friends breaks down as jealousy and rivalries intrude.

Towards the end, Pikelet, the main character ends up sleeping with Sando's partner, forever shattering the friendship, although we find the coven was perhaps more designed to feed Sando's aging ego and Loonie's insatiable desire for danger. Pikelet is the normal one, the everyman who suffers because of his normality, his stable family.

Nobody gets killed, nothing is irrevocably broken down but Winton's almost unmatched gift is to invoke a sense of place, a sense of youth that will pull you back to your own formative years.

He is the literary equivalent of a snapshot found in your attic, invoking memories and nostalgia.

An amazing book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although I know nothing of surfing and little of Australia I really quite enjoyed this book. It's one of those stories that the first chapter starts at the end, chapter two starts at the beginning and the rest of the book goes forwards in time until it meets up with chapter one at the end of the book. It's really a coming of age book based on the childhood and teenage years of two boys who love danger and daring. Their passion starts off as swimming and holding their breath underwater for as long as possible, frightening onlookers who think they have drowned, and the passion turns to surfing after meeting with older surfers and one particular mentor. Tim Winton is a wonderfully descriptive author and although there are two or three periods in the book where little actually happens, it is never so much as to make you bored or want to give up, quite the contrary, you need to know how the story gets back to the first chapter. There are parts when the boys are holding their breath or worse, being held down by the waves under the sea, and describing seeing stars and being at the point of going dizzy that I found myself holding my breath along with them and reading quickly.

It's not a book only for surf or sea lovers, it's a book for everyone and I would thoroughly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2010
Breath is the first Tim Winton book that I have read and as a contemporary piece of fiction I enjoyed it. Breath is a coming of age story told through the eyes of a boy on the brink of his teenage years. Before the era of extreme sports Pikelet and Loonie test their limits, physically and emotionally learning to surf with Sando, an enigma, a much older man. Sando takes the boys under his wing, introducing them to greater surfing risks putting life and limb in danger. Breath has a breathing thread running through it involving life, the ability to breathe, the bodily limits, the risks to life and this results in a shocking event in the novel involving Sando's wife and Pikelet. This event links the opening and ending of the novel (admittedly a clumsy link) and provides the insight into the reasons for Pikelets damaged development. Tying the story together is Winton's amazing description of the ocean, of water, of the forces of nature. Despite 70% of the novel being about surfing (and I would never have thought I would enjoy such subject matter) Winton manages not to repeat himself and consistently portrays the ocean as a living, breathing entity capable of great beauty, unparalleled energy and brutal force. Enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was enthralled by this book even though I had no knowledge of, or interest in surfing before I started reading it. Bruce Pike - known as Pikelet - and his friend Loonie are both drawn to the sea for different reasons. Throughout their teenage years they spend as much time as possible at the beach perfecting their skills. But the first chapter of the book in which the 50 year old Bruce, now a paramedic, attends an apparent case of teenage suicide which he knows to be nothing of the sort, sets the scene for his description of his childhood and teenage years. Whilst there are many descriptions of the surf and the experience of surfing, the book is more complex than that. It is primarily about the element of risk in people's lives and how it affects them and the lengths some people will go to, to experience fear. The writing is unobtrusive and you are hardly aware of it whilst you're reading. The adult characters are seen through Bruce's eyes as he discovers more about them and about himself and his ultimately problematic relationship with Loonie is brilliantly portrayed. I did enjoy it - almost against my better judgement. It is extremely well written and accessible without being over literary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book's next on my wife's local book club list so she grabbed it off me and read it first - here's her review:

I was hooked on this book from the opening pages, and had no idea where it was going to take me - but the title Breath provides the link between the different aspects of this short but momentous novel. Having lived in Australia for 5 years in the 1970s I met my share of surfers and stoners: I have no personal experience of board surfing but have always admired the skill and beauty of watching a good surfer catch a wave.

Tim Winton describes the thrill, the challenges and the danger of surfing in a brilliant way, but the book is about much more than that. It is a tale of coming of age placed in a milieu you can almost taste and smell; it is about danger and adrenaline and pushing yourself to the limit of physical endurance; but most of all it is about the tension between wanting to live a life that is extraordinary, and the things you have to abandon if you are going to do this.

This is a book that really needs to be read by Bruces and Sheilas alike, you certainly don't need to be into surfing to get swept aloft on this prose. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 30 October 2009
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Tim Wilton's novel is a poignant coming of age tale, told in flashback. Bruce Pike at the beginning of the book is a middle aged Paramedic who thinks back to his adolescence where he fell under the spell of the sea. In highly charged prose his early life is recounted as a paean to the power and majesty of the sea and the thrill seeking surfers who brave its dangers.

Where Wilton scores in his exploration of the main character is in the very mundanity of his existence. He paints a picture of someone more ordinary than extraordinary and in doing so makes the ups and downs more real and vivid. Bruce's early experimentation with sex and drugs is perfunctory and he emerges more than slighly bruised from his experiences. Throughout the ordinariness of his life he does however glimpse greatness and that greatness, fleeting but instantly memorable, is of the power and beauty of the sea.

All this Tim Winton delivers splendidly in a mesmerising account of growing up. For young surfers there will be much to enjoy in the sports jargon, for us lesser mortals, the power of the prose will be enough. Highly recommended.
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