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Breath

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  8,012 ratings  ·  849 reviews
When paramedic Bruce Pike is called out to deal with another teenage adventure gone wrong, he knows better than his partner - better than the parents - what happened and how. Thirty years before, that dead boy could have been him.
Paperback, 265 pages
Published April 29th 2009 by Penguin Australia (first published 2008)
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D. Pow

Breath continues Tim Winton’s string of strong novels and story collections. While it isn’t quite as good as The Riders or Dirt Music or the incomparable Cloudstreet, it is a worthwhile read, full of dark impulses and sudden flashes of grace and light. Like Riders and Music, Breath deals with a middle-aged protagonist whose life has turned to ashes and bone shards, unlike those two novels the primary concern is this man’s coming of age told in retrospective.

The bulk of the novel concerns Bruce(P
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Sharon
Paramedic, Bruce Pike (Pikelet) and his partner have been called out to an emergency involving a teenager. Whilst attending to the teenager, Bruce now aged in his fifties thinks back to his own teenage years.

Pikelet grew up in the 1970's in a mill town in Western Australia it is here that he becomes friends with Ivan Loon (Loonie).
The pair spend their days surfing which is when they meet, Sando (Bill Sanderson) and his wife Eva. Sando takes them under his wing and teaches them more extreme surfi
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Shirley Marr
Despite hailing from Western Australia myself, I have never read any of Living State Treasure Tim Winton’s work. Shocking I know. So I thought it about time… although I’m not including the dabble I had in primary school with The Bugalugs Bum Thief, which I don’t think counts... So Breath it is. I am sure that many people will tell me this is perhaps not the best point to start, that maybe I should read the popular ones Cloudstreet or Dirt Music first, but as far as I’m concerned, this book along ...more
Kim

Tim Winton has beguiled me into loving a novel which deals with two subjects that don't interest me at all: teenage male angst and surfing as an extreme sport. The subject matter is why I didn't read the novel when it was first published and it probably would have remained forever unread had I not embarked on a Tim Winton kick after reading The Turning: Stories and his latest novel Eyrie. I listened to the audiobook edition, which was very capably narrated by Australian actor Dan Wyllie.

While t
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Jennifer
I really, really loved this novel of two Australian teenage boys and their obsession with a has-been 70's surfing guru and his angry, bitter young wife. The surfing descriptions made my heart pound, and the narrative builds and breaks just like a wave, from a slow, thoughtful beginning to a tension filled climax that crashes down into a boiling, foaming conclusion. I loved what Winton had to say about the nature of obsession, of what it means to be a man, and the fragility of relationships based ...more
1morechapter
Ugh. I thought this was about a teen boy surfing in Australia. I wanted it to be about a teen boy surfing in Australia. And it was, for about 150 pages, then it goes off into a weird and extreme area that I will not mention here. I feel ripped off because I enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book, but then to have to be subjected to…blech.

Pikelet and Loonie are two teenage boys obsessed with surfing. They meet up with Sando, a guy in his mid 30’s who coaches them in the sport and sometimes encourages
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★ Jess
I am lost for words. I have absolutely no idea what to think right now.
Was the plot intriguing or painfully realistic? Was the writing lyrical or stupid? Was the ending disgusting or heartbreaking?
I think that I will 'like it'. It was, after all, the most unique book Ive read in ages, probably ever.
It is certainly not what I expected, though still enjoyable. The four lead characters are amazing, proving to easily be the strength of this book. Each is unique. Each is exciting and un-predictabl
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Sam
I've just finished this book in one sitting ... I woke up and in an attempt to get back to sleep I picked this up ... I'll be paying for that decision today - but not regretting it for a second ...

put aside for minute that I'm probably biased - tim winton is a Perth boy and he's set this story in a place that feels familar and that is well loved by this chick ... but I'm lying here in bed in the city & I can smell the beach ... my shoulders are tingling with sunburn from an age ago and my ey
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Jaimal
Breath is a masterfully written tale of what it means to live in extremes; and since most of us, in our own ways, do, it’s a tale about what it means to be alive.

I’m ashamed to say that I only heard of Tim Winton when a blogger recently wrote that Saltwater Buddha: a surfer's quest to find Zen on the sea reminded him of Winton’s surf literature. I am now very honored to be mentioned in his company.

A novelist with a voice no one could copy, Winton’s ability to be colloquial while employing phras
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Breath is set in 1970s Western Australia. Pikelet and Loonie, two adolescent boys, are at first brought closer together by their love of surfing and free diving. Ultimately, it drives them apart as they compete for the approval of Sando, a daredevil veteran surfer who basks in their admiration and delights in challenging them with ever greater dangers.

This is not so much a coming-of-age tale as it is a coming awake tale. Pikelet gradually comes to see the bitter reality of the people he idolize
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Roxann
It makes me so sad to give this book only two stars. Winton is one of my favorite Australian writers. The first 3/4 of this book is brilliant - two young teenage boys learning to surf in Western Australia in the early 70's, pushing their limits in increasingly extreme ways in a time before extreme sports was part of the vernacular. The writing is so brilliant, so evocative and descriptive, that I wish I had tried to learn to surf. It's almost better than being there - I can see the waves, feel t ...more
Connie
In this coming-of-age book, two lonely boys challenge each other to push the limits along the coast of Western Australia. It starts with contests holding their breath underwater, then progresses to surfing. Sando, an expert surfer, acts as their mentor as they conquer more difficult waves. The adrenalin just pours out of the pages as the young surfers take bigger risks for the high sensation of riding a perfect wave. "When you make it, when you're still alive and standin' at the end, you get thi ...more
Newengland
Setting: the rugged coastline of western Australia and the beautiful (shark-infested) waters off of it.

Characters: Pikelet (14-yr-old protagonist, sensible, conservative, wide-eyed and taking it all in)

Loonie (Pikelet's dangerous sidekick, the type of "friend" who leads you to two places more often than not: Dangerous and Forbidden)

Sando (36-year-old Laird Hamilton-type, surfing legend who still surfs and hangs out for "a living"; guru and mentor to the boys)

Eva (Sando's younger American wife wh
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Danny
What a feeling it is to add new vernacular to the reader's toolbox because of a gifted writer like Tim Winton. Forgive the bad pun, but Winton can really breathe succorous gulps of breath into the lungs of English. His characters are diving from normalcy through extreme sport and a wealth of sensual information. Pikelet, our narrator, restores honour to melancholic reminiscences by describing for readers the adrenaline infused pleasures of his adolescence spent swimming, surfing, shagging, and c ...more
Trevor
Absolutely loved this book.

This coming of age story is wonderfully written, but is about so much more than that. It's about living life to the full, not being afraid, taking risks and above all finding out who you are as a person.

The background of surfing and the sea is not one that I am overly familiar with, but the descriptions that Tim Winton brings to them, makes them alive and real - you can hear and feel the surf and waves; and when the boys get caught in the rip you live the danger and fe
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Terri Jacobson
This coming of age story is about 2 young men on the west coast of Australia who fall in with an older man who was once a world-renowned surfer. The book tells their story as they slowly become friends and begin to surf in increasingly dangerous waters. It is a test of endurance and manhood, and the boys grow up very quickly. On the surface, this doesn't sound like a book I would be interested in. However, this book blew me away. The prose is musical, the descriptions delightful, and the underly ...more
Philip
Breath by Tim Winton is a deceptively complex novel wrapped in an apparently simple tale. On one level it might be a story about surfing. It isn’t. On another level, it’s a straightforward coming-of-age novel, where an adolescent lad is introduced to the tingling realities of maturity. But it is more than this. Breath might also be about small town lives, the limits of friendship, or our ability to seek gratification by selfishly exploiting circumstance. Equally, it might be about the relentless ...more
Nancy Oakes
Tim Winton has long been one of my favorite authors, and he hasn't let me down yet. His novel Breath won the 2009 Miles Franklin award, beating out its competition: Wanting by Richard Flanagan, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (both of which I've read) Ice by Louis Nowra (which I own but haven't yet read), and The Pages by Murray Bail. In Breath he explores a number of topics, none the least of which is the choice between whether it is better to live an "ordinary" life or to walk on the wild side a ...more
Jenny
"As a youth you do sense that life renders you powerless by dragging you back to it, breath upon breath in an endless capitulation to biological routine, and that the human will to control is as much about asserting power over your own body as exercising it on others."

'Coming-of-age' novel, surfer novel - yes all that, but also a thoughtful, melancholic meditation on breath, on fear and on the silent surrender to life's imperfections.
I've read somewhere that most of Winton's characters share an
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Carolyn
Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’ is like a long wave slowly building up, then breaking and crashing down to cause chaos in it's wake. It is the story of two adolescent surfers who are taken in tow by a veteran surfer and gradually introduced to extreme surfing and the way in which this eventually damages and shapes their future lives.

Pikelet (Bruce Pike) and Loonie (Ivan Loon) are both lonely misfits in a small timber town near the coast who befriend each other one summer swimming at the river and dare eac
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Moses Kilolo
Like everything else I have seen of Tim Winton, this book is pure reading joy. The story holds and challenges the mind... of two barely adolescent boys that really wish to know what its like to be at the extremity of things...

More than just readable, its prose and passages string together something of a beautiful song.

where in the end both boys and their mentors are affected forever, as must all things extreme.
Marcella
Tim Winton can do no wrong.
Dirt Music was the first of his books that I read, and I loved it.
Breath, his latest is amazing. A coming of age novel featuring a teenage boy in Australia, his desire to fit in, to be himself, to challenge his limits, all wrapped up in the most vivid descriptions of surfing I've ever read. Absolutely fantastic.
Lauren
Amazing and disturbing coming of age story set in western Australia.
Art
Tim Winton is a great writer and a West Australian treasure. He deserves good reviews without mentions of Australia the same way Bjork deserves them without Iceland coming up, since his stories could be anywhere really. But he knows what he's doing setting them all in WA, not just as a point of difference but for all the crisp, shivering detail he can put into basically every page by looking out his window. The cold ocean and the warmth of bonfires, the smell of toothpaste and matches, it really ...more
Eric
Winton's novel is an Australian bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story, and a very captivating one at that. It's quite simply a story well-told, with characters that remain mysterious despite being sharply drawn in the narrative and a setting that seems both alien and familiar at the same time. It's a novel about youth and friendship, the search for adventure and meaning in one's life, indifferent parents and surrogate role models, and the unexpected affiliations that can define our lives. And som ...more
Jen
The thrill of the wave is contagious. This rich, complex coming of age story was hard to put down. Full of beautiful, evocative descriptions - and a window into the world of extreme sport (and extreme feeling) that held me totally captive.

The ending is what is needs to be, but wholly depressing all the same. This isn't a happy story. But it feels very honest and true. I would give it 4.5 stars (if I could).

This was the first book I've read by Winton and it won't be the last. He is clearly a tal
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Cheyenne Blue

I tell people that Tim Winton is my favorite author, and “Breath” is my favorite Tim Winton novel. It’s the one that sticks in my head with its elegant Aussie prose. There are sentences in “Breath” that have stuck in my head for years. Yes, “Cloudstreet” is iconic, and “Dirt Music” is a song of beauty, but “Breath” is the one that I remember with the most appreciation, awe, and love.

So why did I only give it 4 stars the first time around? I have no idea, quite honestly, so when my partner finall
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Dan
My friend Paula, who is a fine reader, recommended this book and I follow her recommendations. I've never been sorry, either. The urge to take extraordinary risks is something Paula understands better than I do; she's been an nationally recognized skydiver. So this book took me into the risk-taking need better than anything I've seen, and then out again as the narrator gets older and sees risks in a different light. In the process, the dangers of high-risk surfing are illuminated, though not qui ...more
Alan
Smashing growing up novel, two surfing adolescents meet and worship an older surfer dude with an odd, disapproving wife. The surfing is brilliantly described, the pain and stupidity of adolescence is great too, and I even enjoyed the deviant sex (well some of it) that pops up (pun intended) at the end. Here's a passage from the earlier part, with the protagonist out surfing on his own (to prove a point to his friends):
I broke the surface in a drift of foamscum and barely got a breath before ano
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Josh
What a memorable wave this is. Breath looks at surfing and other risks young people take to feel alive. There are adventure stories that are fun but hard to relate to, like climbing Everest and sailing solo around the world. This is not one of those stories. Young Pike dives to the bottom of rivers and the ocean, jumps off sea-side cliffs, and drops in on big waves, but he's often scared the way I would be.

Near the end, the story takes a weird, inevitable turn toward a dark place. I appreciate
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Tim Winton was born in Perth, Western Australia, but moved at a young age to the small country town of Albany.

While a student at Curtin University of Technology, Winton wrote his first novel, An Open Swimmer. It went on to win The Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1981, and launched his writing career. In fact, he wrote "the best part of three books while at university". His second book, Shallows
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More about Tim Winton...
Cloudstreet Dirt Music The Riders Eyrie The Turning: Stories

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“It’s how I fill the time when nothing’s happening. Thinking too much, flirting with melancholy.” 33 likes
“I liked books - the respite and privacy of them - books about plants and the formation of ice and the business of world wars. Whenever I sank into them I felt free.” 16 likes
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