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The Life

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  219 ratings  ·  44 reviews
"He looked into the Pacific and the Pacific looked back into him."
The Life tells the story of former-world-champion Australian surfer, Dennis Keith, from inside the very heart of the fame and madness that is 'The Life'.
Now bloated and paranoid, former Australian surfing legend Dennis Keith is holed up in his mother's retirement village, shuffling to the shop for a Pine-Lim
Paperback, 407 pages
Published by Allen & Unwin (first published January 1st 2010)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  219 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia, sports
This Australian-set fiction captures a washed-up surfer (no pun intended) and the way in which he tries to overcome the mundane world of the retirement village he now resides in. Aside from being typical at times, I really liked the story and the surroundings of the plot.
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian, male, 2ndhand
Things I am not interested in: surfing, surfers, arrogant surfers, Queensland, the '70s, big stars who get into smack and lose their way, fat washed-up former big stars and surfing. What this book is about: see above. What I really, really liked: this book. Confusing.
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, this is so good! Knox has created a character who is unlikeable, unreliable, untrustworthy, dishonest, disloyal, pathetic and pitiable yet he draws admiration from everyone because of his talent on a surfboard. He also manages to even draw love from a few. Dennis is a fat, has-been surfer who has stewed his brain with years of drug abuse, and Knox has a brilliant handle on his OCDs and the narrative (once you get used to it)is so very clever.

Much as you don't want to be drawn in by Dennis, y
Daniel Ducrou
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! Here's the review I wrote for THE BIG ISSUE:

I’ve been surfing for over twenty years and, in my opinion, most writers who take on the topic of surfing – especially literary writers – don’t quite get it right. Tim Winton’s Breath was the first Australian surf novel I’d read that nailed it. So when I heard there was a new surf novel coming out to rival Breath, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. Malcolm Knox’s brilliant fourth novel, The Life, zeroes-in on one of the most tumultuous
Lisa Walker
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Apparently there was some guys somewhere, America or Hawaii or something, who had The Life – made a living from surfing in comps and selling and shaping boards and maybe giving surf lessons and still surfed whenever they wanted.’ This is the life Gold Coast grommets are dreaming of in the 60s. And king of the grommets is DK – Dennis Keith, a surfer of abnormal talent and few words. ‘Yeah... but nah,’ is his favourite expression.
Forty years later the rock at Snapper reads ‘DK Lives’ but DK is
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just want to rave about his book. I loved it so much. I started off half-hearted about it, curious, but not really excited about the main character, about the syntax (which takes some getting used to) or about surfing, generally. 416 pages later and I was besotted with all of it. I was both desperate to finish the story and find out what happens, but desperate not to, so I could stay with DK (the protagonist). It is fiction, but the character is based on surfing legend Michael Peterson, who pa ...more
Josephine Clarke
Heard Malcolm Knox at the Writers' Festival and having read his two previous novels bought this and got him to sign it.
Review A great read. The Australian male surfer, the Australian male psyche in the 60s and 70s. Told in the voice of an affable larrikin. Utterly infectious story telling that has you surfing the pages, the barrels and troughs of the narrative, whooping and gasping ... and I have never surfed in my life. Thank you Malcolm Knox for capturing the era I grew up in and getting me t
Brilliant. I ordered this book as soon as I read about it. How could I not after hearing it compared to Tim Winton's "Breath." It describes the sea, waves, and surfing in quite a different way from Winton, at times technical, and others almost impressionistic. In fact the style is completely fresh, like nothing else I've ever read. It takes some getting used to but I fell for it right from the beginning. I'll say it again—brilliant.
Daniella Brodsky
If you haven't read this book, run out and do so now. I found myself trying not to sleep through the night, just so I could read some more...Excellent.
Morgan Hambleton
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, like Bad Boy Bubby meets Big Wednesday..
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Read in fits and starts as I tried to get into it, travelling around Europe. Was glad I persevered in the end; it became absorbing despite the surf descriptions and the obliqueness of DK’s retelling of the story. There are so many strands to the narrative : the pathetic DK of the present describing how he tries to restart his surfing secretively at midnight; DK duelling with his would be biographer (BFO); DK recalling how his life as a famous surfer really was; DK trying to understand why his Li ...more
Alan  Marr
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of a fifty-something former world surfing champion who is 18 stone and lives in a retirement village with his mother. It's engrossing. Although I struggled to get the language under control at first i was soon into the swing. it is a blokey kind of book but the three women characters are the strongest people in it. i am looking for more by Malcolm Knox.
Adam Loy
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Having holidayed all my life in the locations where the book is set, I can relate to the changes the reader feels. The book is completely Australian from the description of the landscape, the frustrations of stardom, the language, and the connection that is felt to the ocean. Great read, with an interesting rhythm.
Mark Gee
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Powerful yet sometimes intentionally incoherent writing. Enough of a whiff of redemption to keep me liking it.
The voice in this is very distinct, and difficult for me to get into. Once I settled into it I enjoyed the story.
Jo Case
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aus-authors, novel
Malcolm Knox’s fourth novel is at once a departure from his established style and an extension of his preoccupying themes. A former sportswriter, Knox explored the inner world of elite sportsmen (cricketers) in his second novel, A Private Man. Sport and competition were again central to his third, Jamaica, which featured a group of friends competing in an endurance swimming race. Central to these novels – and his debut, Summerland – are finely tuned explorations of class and masculinity in conte ...more
Alex Rogers
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good - what a story. The main character is deeply flawed and in many ways unlikeable, but the story is totally compelling, very well written, and an amazing insight into the recent history of Australian surfing. Great read.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-buy
Having already read Tim Winton's Breath (a glorious, nostalgic wisp of a book that can only be summed up with the book's title as an adjective and play on words - breathy), I thought I'd already done an Australian Surfing Book, and being a girl, didn't feel I could learn a whole lot more.

Scott pushed this upon me, and I'm _so_ glad he did. This is just gorgeous. Malcolm Knox, I love you. I may even tell you that in fan mail.

The character, is The King - Dennis Keith (DK), world renowned surfer
Robyn Philip
Sep 20, 2012 rated it liked it
It takes a little while to get into the rhythm of the language with this one, but worth the perseverance. Knox knows the ocean like Tim Winton ('Breath') and surprises with his myriad of aesthetic experiences in and over the waves. There's an underlying humour and poetic touch in the writing that keeps the flow in this re-telling of the past life of DK, famous Gold Coast Surfer. DK is now a slob of a man in his fifties who lives with his mother in a nursing home, eating pine-lime splices (ice-cr ...more
Knox explores the world of surfing starting in the 60s. Its a world that I did know quite well in the 70s - captured pretty accurately in 'Puberty Blues'. This story explores the story of Dennis Keith, loosely modeled on the real story of MIchael Peterson who was a champion surfer who fell apart in the early 80s after some early success. Dennis lives with his adopted mother Mo. He is a shambles of a man and the text style replicates his scattered thoughts and mental state quite well. I think Kno ...more
Ms Tlaskal
I won this as a prize so felt obliged to read it, even though surf-stories are not really my genre. Well I know a lot more about surfing now after 400 pages of waxing, barrels and wipe outs, but I think Knox could have told the same story in half the page space. A surfer's life is very Zen, very repetitive, very cyclical, like the waves and this novel definitely catches that feeling. Knox is also a journalist and he knows how to work a motif; I got bored of reading the same line of how DK (legen ...more
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I can't surf, haven't learned to surf... yet. I did spend a week at surf school once at Maroochydore. I had no idea I was a kook, failing to ride my own hired version of "the thing". I was sucked into this book. Ate it up like DK on a wave. DK eating up life, life eating DK up. I still haven't figured out why I felt anything for this despicable human being. But I did. I so wanted him to be as brilliant as he was, more brilliant, brilliant for longer. I wanted him to kill the competition. The fla ...more
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I found this story simultaneously a page turner and a bore. I'd smash through a solid hours' reading and then plop it down, frustrated that it was going nowhere so slowly. I enjoyed the style of writing I think that weaving the past in with the present and linking the mystery between the two is what got me through it! Not going to lie, I didn't find the ending very satisfying, the cryptic 'interpret as you will' sort of 'left at the end of the book but not the end of the story' type ending isn't ...more
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Tim Winton's "Breath" is one of my favourite books, he captures perfectly the thrill of surfing. "The Life" is like "Breath's" crazy younger brother, on drugs. It took me a wee while to get used to the writing style, it basically feels like you are inside the head of DK and given the fact that his mind operates like a pinball machine, on drugs, then it's quite the ride. It is by no means for the faint hearted and was quite a departure from the books I have been reading lately but I enjoyed being ...more
Tanya Redman
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Malcolm Knox is a brillian writer. This is one of the most clever books I have ever read. I must admit though, it took me till at least half way through the book to feel this way. Prior to that I was struggling. The voice of the main character is brilliant and spot on. The way his voice demonstrates what is going on in his mind is extremely clever, and the reason I found it difficult to read, as it was hard to get used to. But it is well worth the effort. As I said, one of the most clever books ...more
Dee Rose
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting fall from grace story of world champion surfer "DK", now 58 years old, obese and washed up, living with his mum in a retirement village.

The story abounds with surfing culture and lingo from the 60's and 70's. It was a bit hard to get into the unusual style and prose of the novel at first but it worked well I thought. I'm not a huge fan of the novel, because I don't particularly like stories where all the characters are losers, but overall I think the author did a fantastic job.
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinary book, one of those "can't put down" numbers that has you up til 3 am and missing all sorts of deadlines.

His first person character is quite something, a recluse who hates everything except waves, even the other surfers on them. Also brings small town Australia into sharp focus, beautifully represented.

Andrew Meiklejohn
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I loved this, got totally submerged in it and got very into the complex character of shouldn't like him really but I warmed to him....eventually didn't want the book to finish! The ending left me scratching my head a bit initially too. Off to read the Sean Doherty's "The Life of Michael Peterson" and "Breath" by Tim Winton next.
Matthew Lang
Exceptionally well written with a beautifully crafted character voice, but I really disliked the viewpoint character, and that made it very hard to care about anything that happened to him or was going to happen to him. If you like surfing and are more interested in fantastic writing than a character you can sympathise or empathise with, then you might like this more than I did.
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Malcolm Knox was born in 1966. He grew up in Sydney and studied in Sydney and Scotland, where his one-act play, POLEMARCHUS, was performed in St Andrews and Edinburgh. He has worked for the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD since 1994 and his journalism has been published in Australia, Britain, India and the West Indies.

His first novel Summerland was published to great acclaim in the UK, US, Australia and Eur
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