Swallow the Air
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Swallow the Air

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  135 ratings  ·  24 reviews
When May's mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Billy are taken in by an aunt. However their loss leaves them both searching for their place in a world that doesn't want them. May sets off to find her father and her Aboriginal identity.
Hardcover, 201 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by University of Queensland Pr (Australia)
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Swallow the Air by indigenous Australian author Tara June Winch has been on Year 12 reading lists almost from its first release in 2006, and I think it’s a very good choice of text to introduce young people to indigenous writing. It’s confronting, because Winch writes with disconcerting frankness about indigenous issues and lifestyles, but it’s also beautiful, uplifting, and often rather funny. In other words, it resists attempts to stereotype indigenous people head on, and I like that.

It is tru...more
Ian Sergeant
"my mother was head sick"... So begins Tara Winch's faux-memoir of May Gibson's search for her Aboriginality and home. Winch's opening leaves us with little doubt where she is taking us. It is a journey through constant jarring simile and bizarre metaphor. It is a road-trip where character development is the roadkill along the monotonous white-lined bitumen that is the plot. And the characters only elicit the same momentary empathy as those roadside victims.

By choosing to manufacture a fiction a...more
It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel as Winch's writing seems to come from a place of such confidence and poise that you would assume she had many such novels already under her belt. Swallow the Air is the story of May a young Aboriginal girl who loses her mother to mental illness and suicide and who goes in search of her family roots to reconnect with her heritage.

It follows May's journey as he traces her family, first looking for her white father then travelling on to her home coun...more
Rach Arthur
Sadly, it isn't possible to give something half a star.

It was overwritten. Her frequent, frequent metaphors rarely made sense and didn't help me connect with any of the characters (if we're supposed to like this guy, why are you describing his smile as 'curdled'?). Ultimately, I really resent that it only got published because, in the right lighting, she looks like she might be Aboriginal. Or half-Aboriginal, anyway. Maybe.
This book won the Unaipon award for a first novel by an Indigenous writer. And boy, this was not an easy read for me. Or an easy listen.

(I started this one as an audio book - because it was there, and because it’s even harder to find audio-books by non-white authors than paper books, especially in my most local library. But although the language sounded beautiful when read (and it was read by the author) the content was such that hearing it was hard, and I kept worrying that I would stumble ove...more
I read this book for Year 12 English [aus], and thus my experience of this novel has been a deeply analytic one.

I feel that the language is beautifully poetic; Winch has a gift of language that many others do not. Her use of metaphor is strong, yet sometimes I feel that she tries too hard to give every passage a 'deeper meaning'. Almost all sections of this book can be read as being metaphorical, and for me this detracts from the experience; metaphor should be used more sparingly than Winch has...more
Sharon Lee
Ok I'm not sure what to do with this. It's grim. I can't decide if it's a portrayal of harsh reality or if it is playing to the stereotype. It's Samson and Delilah in that it's beautiful and shameful at once. But too much too quickly?
There's a dreaming walkabout feel to the prose in this novel. The novel is important for the main character May's journey to country and for the author's lyrical writing style. At the same time that we are lulled into a sleep-like state by the slightly rocking prose, meandering between past, present and dreaming, the events portrayed are brutal and callous. It almost feels at times as though May has disengaged from events in her own life to cope with violence, tragedy and loss. An unusual but sa...more
Ilyhana Kennedy
What an exceptional work this is!
I found in it a heightened engagement, a lyricism that entranced me, and a content that spoke truth (I'm Australian).
There were sentences that I felt compelled to read several times over, for the pure joy of their beauty.
The author carefully crafts a composite experiential image of Aboriginal life in Australia, with a focus on the loss of the cultural markers of identity.
I hope that the author continues to write. Her work is such a valuable contribution to Austra...more
I found this book to be authentic and moving but a little overwritten.
This is an exceptional novel, allowing a view into the life of the Australian Aboriginal community and how they see the world.
It is confronting and honest and a wonderful piece of writing. It addresses issues that are faced and discrimination and racism in open and frightful ways.

An amazing novel, not just for Australians, but also for anyone who has ever felt as though they were on the outside, it allows a view that your life is no where near as bad as you thought it was.

A fantastic novel, on...more
Claire Melanie
hauntingly beautiful prose, achingly sad story. gorgeous book.
I read this one before I put it into the primary school library and lucky I did! Definitely not suitable for little people! But apart from that, the imagery in this novel was at times quite beautiful. I guess it was intended to evoke dreamtime stories, and to that extent it did work. It could be confusing and muddled at times which made it hard going sometimes, but maybe that was intentional - to be of mixed heritage is a confusing state and finding a sense of 'home' is a challenge at the best o...more
Rebecca Evans
A beautiful piece of poetic prose with lilting lyricism and quite a wonderful story that is simultaneously magical and bleak. It's not the greatest book ever written, but for a debut novel it is remarkable. May's constant flights of fancy question the ending but never has a journey home felt so true, and relatable.
A very good read. Very harsh, heart breaking and terribly real circumstances - but written so beautifully. Hard to say that I enjoyed it, because of the story contents. However, I think it was powerful in the sense that it made something difficult to hear beautiful to read - if that makes sense.
I had to read this for school and I never finished it, I mean it was really short it was also really bad. The author went to my high school and it is set in the area I live in (hence why I had to read it for school).

I did not like it, not even a little.
Not a bad read. The writing style was quite beautiful but sometimes, it was a bit too ambiguous and hard to understand. I can see the appeal of the novel, but, in all honesty, it just wasn't my type of book.
May 15, 2009 Wendy added it
I really didn't enjoy this book, I nearly quit reading it but persisted. It was far too wandering and vague for me, I do appreciate that may have been the intention of the author but it just drove me nuts.
Some very good parts but a lot of bad stuff to sift through. At times, Winch was too heavy handed in trying to get her point across which struck me as odd for someone using such a poetic voice.
A short book that doesn't take long to read. Would be good to read it again (more thoroughly) one day.
Some beautiful imagery, but I couldn't engage with the protagonist. I had no sense of her.
I feel sorry for anyone who has to study this for Belonging in Yr12 English.
Chel Hartrick
Aug 28, 2009 Chel Hartrick marked it as to-read
Recommended by ANZLL member, Carol
Elise marked it as to-read
Aug 25, 2014
Yu-ying Lee
Yu-ying Lee marked it as to-read
Aug 24, 2014
Audrey marked it as to-read
Aug 07, 2014
Maty marked it as to-read
Aug 05, 2014
Dernica Edgar
Dernica Edgar marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2014
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Tara June Winch has written essay, short fiction and memoir for Vogue, VICE, McSweeneys (US), and various Australian publications. Her first novel, Swallow the Air won several Australian Literary Awards, and her body of work was awarded the international Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Award in 2009. Her forthcoming novel and short story collection are due out 2014. She has one daughter, and resides...more
More about Tara June Winch...
Swallow the Air (David Unaipon Award Winners Series) Untitled / The Build Up (RAF Volume 8: Issue 4) Things A Map Won't Show You: Stories from Australia & Beyond The Best Australian Stories: A Ten-Year Collection One Book Many Brisbanes 4

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