By Tim Winton
This is Australia. Small town Australia. Before Australia became rich. Tim Winton’s set of short stories plumbs the depths of people caught in the morass of everydayness. People stuck. Going to work day after day to a meat-packing factory. In a violent marriage. With a runaway father and a self-sacrificing mother. There are escapes. To the university, to the big city, out of Australia, turning to religion, burning houses behind. But there is never an escape from the impressions of childhood spent in an out-of-the-way town, seeing the destruction wrought by hopelessness and despair. It’s a rich inner world of ‘damaged souls’ that Winton explores. But it is bleak. Oh so bleak. It has none of the hopefulness of his Cloudstreet. And strangely, the bleakness is addictive. You can’t help but keep walking vicariously through the wreckage. Because Winton is a writer of some wise and exquisite prose. ”In the hot northern dusk, the world suddenly gets big around us, so big we just give in and watch.” “All the big things hurt, the things you remember. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t important.” Some mornings out in the misty ranges the world looks like it means something, some simple thing just out of my reach, but there anyway.” And that is compensation enough for the bleakness.