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The Bodysurfers

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  568 ratings  ·  54 reviews
'These stories breathe. Taut yet teeming with life, they are shot through with gritty phrases that catch at one's throat.' - Sydney Morning Herald

Set among the surf and sandhills of the Australian beach - and the tidal changes of three generations of the Lang family - this bestselling collection of short stories is an Australian classic. The Bodysurfers vividly evokes the
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Published (first published October 20th 1984)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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Velvetink
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Disappointing.

'His characters repeatedly hurl themselves at life and lovers. There is something very powerful and poignant in these stories.' …..so says one reviewer.

For me though - overall I found something ambiguous and essential lacking in the stories. They let me down severely with too few satisfactory resolutions. Maybe that is what short stories are supposed to be about - to leave you wondering?. I don’t know. I like a good twist at the end but this selection left me floundering like a fi
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Ian Laird
10 November 2015: minor edits and I have added a quote I had noted earlier (my notes are on bits of paper everywhere, and I keep finding them, later). Hrumfph.

This collection started off with a thrill but gradually became repetitious and surprisingly distasteful.

The stories are linked thematically in two ways, perhaps three. First and most obviously they are set on the coast, by the sea, and quite often in the sea. That’s fine, it’s Australia, the most urbanised country (of any size) on the pla
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James
Feb 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Jesus Christ this was testing, I wanted to like it so bad and the writing style itself is from time to time skillful and descriptive. However!

The entire time all I was thinking to myself was like, "my god, did this book single-handedly invent the male gaze?" I thought it was kind of a joke that male writers focus so aggressively on breasts when describing women, but this took it to a level I could barely accept as being stylistic.

For example, get a load of this passage that made me want to die:
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Ellyn
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is really only a review for the title story of the book, as it's one of a list of short stories that I was given to choose from to read for school. I've not read the rest yet, though likely I will once I get the time.

Of the four that I chose (this one, Closer by David Malouf, Postcards from Surfers by Helen Garner and, for a bit of something different, The Landlady by Roald Dahl) this is the one that I have the most conflicted feelings about. The story seems to be attempting a lot of things
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Grrtch Kvetch
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
I might've rated this lower immediately after reading, but the collection has continued to resonate. I picked up the Pocket Book edition on a whim during a layover in Sydney. It's cultural treasure trove. Drewe's portrayals of unattainable masculinity in Australia vividly evoked people I met during my travels. For an American already perplexed by masculine identities in the States, The Bodysurfers shed welcome light on those darn Aussie men. It's a classic, absolutely!
Keen
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars!

Drewe does an admirable job of capturing scenes from various corners of coastal Australia, with even one from California thrown into the mix too. This is his first collection of short stories, first published back in 1983 and almost all of them are still relevant and relatable as they were back then.

These stories may be short but they manage to penetrate deeper into some interesting and memorable places and spaces, and so we get a feel for time, place and culture without falling into
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Sasha
This was a bit unexpected as I had not realised that this is short story collection - I know there has been a tv series so I was a bit surprised as most of these stories have little to connect them apart from the beach setting they share. I'm assuming that the tv series is only loosely based on the book.
The blurb says the stories follow a family through three generations but I really didn't pick up on a generational theme at all - maybe I wasn't paying attention and maybe it really wasn't releva
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Kirstie
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gutsy and often hilarious in it’s portrayals of mostly frustrated lives seeking satisfaction in 80’s Australia. I enjoyed stepping so easily back into that era. More languor. Less PC observances. No mobile phones. Baby oil and Chablis!
There’s something satisfyingly honest about these stories and characters. The ever-present coastal backdrop teases throughout with it’s promise of providing a kind of graceful liberation to all who seek it, but as often as much plays the role of witness to all that
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Gavin
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Short stories, well executed, are like little intrusions into a life. Wonderful stuff.
Boy Blue
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: australia
Some short story collections work really well when the stories are linked and in Western Australian literature there's a few examples most notably Tim Winton collections, particularly The Turning, in which he does a brilliant job of creating stories with their own impetus that still gain something from being part of a larger mesh of meaning. While Drewe is a contemporary of Winton, his stories don't have the same strength, his style is not quite as fluid. Winton seems to be able to breathe under ...more
Jeremy
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
The Bodysurfers is a collection of interlinking short stories that predominantly follow the generational fortunes of the Lang family. Most of the stories are set on either the west or east coast of Australia, with one set on the west coast of America. It is not an exaggeration to claim that Australians have a strong connection with the ocean, with nearly all of the major cities lying along our coastlines. Sun, surf and sand is part of our national identity and stands in strong contrast to the un ...more
Jake Goretzki
Mar 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
[And so continues Antipodean season]

Good. I can see why this feels noteworthy: here's the (mostly Aussie) beach - a place we associate with joy and hedonism (more so in Australia than almost anywhere else, bar California where a couple of the stories are set). Yet here it's a place of relationship breakdown, sleaze (incest, even), deceit and emotional numbness. The sea is always the backdrop, and it's generally not doing what it's supposed to be doing for us.

Which I found really quite refreshin
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M - The long hot spell
Three and a half stars for me.

Drewe’s short story collection was printed in the eighties and I could tell. It reminded me in style and characters of a few of the books my boyfriend told me I just had to read back then. When I did, I disagreed with him.

Whingey blokes, a grown man still upset by his parents divorce, a perv harassing women, ‘tits’ etc...meh. The stories have mixed quality - so some are really quite good - but ultimately this is another case of ‘its well written but it’s not for me
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Jacinta Fintan
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
A book of short stories. Yeah, it was okay. But I found myself drifting away from these "slightly older man" stories themed loosely around the ocean. To be honest, I chose it because I had run out of Winton and I wanted Winton. Which isn't a fair way to read a book. The story about a hippy that thinks he can beat the recession by saving energy is good. Who knew that tampons and margarine could be used as DIY lighting.
Jesse Dixon
Sep 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
There are twelve short stories in this book. "The Last Explorer" was probably my favourite. But "Baby Oil" was good and "The View from the Sandhills" was different but interesting, with the man using ocker language. I guess you could call him an unsavoury Aussie ocker. I enjoyed reading these short stories.
Mersha Aftab
Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scandalous, jaw dropping short stories....

"One the other side of the label, well below his last mark, almost at the bottom of the label, was a clearly........"

You have got to read them all. Superb¡
Kris McCracken
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this connected group of stories from one of Australia’s most esteemed writers evokes an Australia of long ago, but one that resonates quite powerfully today. Despite the common backdrop of sunshine, heat and beaches, the stories are gritty, disturbing and, oftentimes, quite repugnant. Yet, the author’s skill makes them very readable. Pain and self-pity – one of Australia’s favourite pastimes – is at the forefront here, and anyone following the news these days will recognise the impact of ...more
Maureen
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this immediately after finishing Janette Turner Hospital's collection of short stories Forecast: Turbulence and found the Drewe collection so much more satisfying. The Australian coast runs through this book along with a collection of characters which always intrigued and interested me. From a man who had run away from his family to the beach due to financial difficulties to a man marking a baby oil bottle each time he sees his married lover in order to determine what other dalliances she ...more
Mark Abbott
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I've read this book twice, living by the beach for some parts of my life I understand what the author is getting at.

The stories are varied and the characters are easy to visualise.

I'd recommend this book. It won't change your life but it talks volumes about Australian culture.
Anthony Scully
Great collection of short stories set at or near the Australian Coast. Terrific set of memorable characters, each facing his or her own set of moral dilemmas. Enjoyable reading.
Tayne
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, oz-lit
This collection is every bit as good as Winton, and probably even better. He approaches something like a Salter from Down Under in some of these, like Looking For Malibu.
Jazzy Lemon
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A collection of short stories, like a polaroids from an Australian life, each one remarkable in its ordinariness.
Jes
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: popular-penguins
A nice collection of Australian short stories. Done repeat characters which made for nice familiarity. A light, quick and easy read.
Lucy
Not sure it was worth Penguin adding this to its orange collection
Rochelle
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My favourite collection of short stories from Australia. Filled with images of the Australian coastline and delightfully intriguing stories and quirky characters.
Kerry
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this when I was living in Perth. Excellent stories that capture the atmosphere of the time very well.
Clive Parkin
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-past
Prob very early 90s. Loved some of these short stories. There was a tv tie in.
Justin Green
Truly exceptional writer and collection.
Jon Smith
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Under rated slice of Australiana.

Really quite effective Australian suburban gestalt.

Vanessa Mozayani
A collection of short stories depicting Australian life in the 70s/80s on the coast.
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Robert Drewe is among Australia’s most loved writers – of novels, memoir and short stories. His iconic Australian books include The Shark Net, The Bodysurfers and Our Sunshine. He is also editor of Black Inc.’s Best Australian Stories annual series. Recently, he has revisited the short story himself, with a masterful new collection, The Rip. Jo Case spoke to him for Readings about storytelling.

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