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Swallow the Air

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  860 ratings  ·  110 reviews
An Alternate Cover Edition of this ISBN can be found here.

In 2006, Tara June Winch’s startling debut Swallow the Air was published to acclaim. Its poetic yet visceral style announced the arrival afresh and exciting new talent. This 10th anniversary edition celebrates its important contribution to Australian literature.

When May's mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Bi
Hardcover, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, 216 pages
Published January 1st 2016 by University of Queensland Press (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  860 ratings  ·  110 reviews

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Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Swallow The Air is absolutely breathtaking. An emotional journey of Australia and it's indigenous community through the eyes of a young girl touched by sadness. Never have I felt so moved by any work of fiction. May was a character representative of aspects of our broken country, where Aboriginal communities are left behind while white society moves forward. Her struggle made my heart ache with grief, losing her mother at such a tender age and trying to find that sense of family once more.

The pr
May Gibson is a young woman of mixed Aboriginal and European heritage, living in disadvantaged circumstances in Wollongong. Billy, May’s older brother, is her closest companion, although he has a different father. The story follows May’s life after the sudden death of her mother when she was a child. She and her older brother Billy were taken in by Aunty, who loved them, looked after them to the best of her ability. However Aunty has alcohol and gambling problems and an abusive boyfriend. May lo ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
Just want to rate this because for almost 8 months I struggled through this book. It's not a long book either, but I struggled. I deconstructed 80% of this book and then wrote countless essays for my final year of high school. I have so much hatred for this book and the characters.

Sure, the language is beautiful. But, it's so descriptive that I was frustrated.

However, the story is both fiction and fact because the author contributes parts she herself experience. Still, this does not change my
A contemporary but ancient story. One with a lot of pain and sadness but also love and belonging.
It's the familiar story of indigenous people trying to find solace in their sorrow and loss through substance abuse leading to a cycle of more sorrow and more loss. There's also quite a bit of hope in the amount of love and sense of belonging from that love once the cycle is broken. Certainly not a hopeless story, one with a lot of hope and powerfully told.
I'll be reading this again, I'm just that
While a set of short stories, the stories are connected telling the story of May a young Aboriginal girl living in the Gong. Her mother dies, she and her brother go to live with her Aunty, she goes on a trek to Darwin, Sydney, and western NSW to try to find her family.
The stories provide a chilling tale of life growing up as an Aboriginal. Alcohol, domestic violence, petty crimes, drugs, unemployment, suicide, racism, Government disinterest. The writing is poetic in describing the world May live
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 tr
Jay-Dee Davis
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“...if they stop digging up Aunty’s backyard, stop digging up a mother’s memory, stop digging up all our people, maybe then, we’ll all stop crying.”

This was a powerful read, and I found it particularly poignant in the lead up to a day that we are told we should celebrate despite the fact that it causes so much pain to so many.

This is fiction heavily influenced by the authors own experience as a Wiradjuri woman. It is heartbreaking, yet beautiful. The writing is effortlessly lyrical. Though I at
Rachael Wilson
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a beautifully written harrowing book that manages to perfectly capture the experience of being bereft.
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
Brown Girl Reading
Sadly this one didn't work for me. Winch does have writing talent but she was doing quite a bit of overwriting in this novella. I say too many metaphors kill the metaphors. Despite that, I feel like the best parts of the book were the first quarter and the last quarter. It was the middle where everything fell down, in my opinion. The themes of the book were family, culture and trying to find them along with racism. I sort of wished she would have been more specific on that. This was her debut so ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in a single night, completely captivated by Winch's prose. The book draws you on this intense journey, tracked by emotional rather than simply temporal flow, that moves across the country. Despite the dreamlike tone, the book sharply invokes instantly recognisable slices of Australia, from the Gong to the Block, to Darwin's surrounds. The section in the Block was so instantly real, local and part of my world that it felt like hitting a dose of fresh, cold water, in a good way, after ...more
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Swallow the Air - Tara June Winch

Told from the perspective of 15 year old May Gibson as she tries to find a sense of belonging and discover her roots after loosing her Mum. May’s journey was a really harrowing one to follow. The deep, deep sorrow, oppression and generational trauma left me with a similar feeling to when I read Auē by Becky Manawatu (incredible book!).

Tara June Winch has an incredible writing style. It is very lyrical and clever. The way she writes draws you in and is descriptiv
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reviews
First published in 2006 but reissued in 2018 (in a really lovely small-format hardcover), this is a gripping account of a young Aboriginal girl whose single mother dies, leaving her (and her older brother) in the care of an auntie. When Auntie’s fondness for drink and men who throw their fists around gets too much May strikes out on her own.

Told in a series of self-contained short chapters and vignettes (a bit like short stories), the narrative charts Mays ups and downs, the heartbreak she cont
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot of this coming of age novel is very simple - after her mother commits suicide, May, a young indigenous girl goes on a journey to find her family, her identity and the place in the world she can call home.

I found the author's writing style mesmerizing - flowing and poetic, yet simple and economical at the same time, with similes and metaphors that make you stop in your tracks and re-read them because of their originality and aptness. She excels when describing places and uses all the sen
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Apr 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: auslit
While this one didn’t ultimately come together for me, I did love returning to Winch’s storytelling manner and play with structure, and her perceptive and poetic imagery. This (to me) read more as a series of linear and interconnected short stories, progressing as May goes on a search for her father and her Indigenous identity. For me the opening and closing chapters were the strongest, particularly when May was immersed in memories and moments with her late mother.

The growth in her writing bet
Rikki Hill
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
First I want to make a point that from what I can see, many of the low ratings of his book were people who studied it in high school, and although I can see that the language and the themes explored in the book make it an excellent text choice for senior English students, of course some of their reading enjoyment is going to be diminished when you have to analyse it constantly over months and months! But I think this was wonderful - truly stunning, poetic language, a set of vignettes or short st ...more
Kali Napier
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aww2020
Winch's writing is poetic, at times breaking into sections that are miniature poems in themselves. After her mother dies, May Gibson is on the verge of losing herself, becoming immersed in a culture of drugs as she tries to find a place to fit in. Her path intersects with her brother's, sending her on a journey to find the missing pieces of her family, to know who she is, and find her home. This journey is told through short chapters, each a short story within themselves, mostly linear, but the ...more
Apr 16, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I suppose somewhere in this book was an important message and important values but it was to much of a struggle to see them. The major issue with this book is that it seems to have confused a novel with a collection of phrases. Even though some of the phrases were beautiful, it did not flow, and it was difficult to read. I would not have finished this book if I hadn't needed to. This book was 90% metaphor, which made it hard to understand what was happening without huge amounts of effort. And a ...more
Holden Reklaw
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Winch’s novel reads like a semi autobiographical text, if it is or not, I’m unsure, but the way the author writes presents a connection between writer and text that has me believe that is the case.

The story presents the complex event of May arching for her mob and country, in a way that is palatable for those with the littlest knowledge of Aboriginal culture or storytelling. I recommend this as a starting place for those wanting to explore Indigenous Australian stories.

However it is not the type
Bianca (Belladonnabooks)
“Some things you never forget. The way your dead mother used to smoke. The way sunrise flashes against the tabletop of the ocean. My brother’s scared eyes looking up from the kitchen floor.”

Swallow the Air is an incredibly moving story about one young Indigenous Australian woman’s journey to find herself, her identity and her father.

As an Indigenous Australian myself, I am always excited to read a book written by an Indigenous author and I’m glad that the recent #blacklivesmatter movement has sp
Erin Franklin
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Swallow the Air has some of the most evocative metaphors I've read in awhile. I don't tend to form a lot of images in my mind when I'm reading (or ever, my brain just doesn't roll like that) and Tara June Winch's writing made me start to realise that that might be why I love simile and metaphor so much. This book was like putting on a new pair of glasses when you've waited to get your prescription updated for too long, I could see so much clearer and, in that, realise how little I could see befo ...more
Sue Smith
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Swallow The Air

A modern story for a dispossessed people. Although set in the mid 1980's Swallow the Air is a thoroughly modern telling of family and connection to country. The poetic nature of Winch's language is perfect in giving a sense of spirituality. Her language is sparse and compact but like any new language takes time to appreciate. This book is literature and should be appreciated as such.
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
An utterly compelling read that lures the reader into May’s grief and search for meaning after the death of her mother with short vignettes of stark reality then dreamlike memory.

The loss of May’s mother sparks her need for place and her search for her aboriginal identity after the people in her life slowly fall into their own destruction. Whilst each story felt more grim than the one before, their was a thin chord of hope that resonated throughout in May’s relentless need to forge her own path
Chris Waterford
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Her first book and she writes like a dream---such lyrical prose. The story is about an aboriginal woman growing up with severe disadvantage and abandoned by both parents, and her search to find meaning for her life by trying to track down her family. The quality of the writing kept me reading. The story drifted like the main character.
Jan 07, 2021 rated it liked it
Loved seeing the beginnings of Tara June Winch’s work after loving The Yield last year but feels like a debut in a lot of ways, particularly the frequent misfires of figurative language for me. Themes are on point, as expected, but delivery was here and there.
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Started and finished this today. Breathtaking. Moving. So much depth for a short book. (I listened to the audiobook which was a little off putting... but still the beautiful writing shone through)
Hannah Wattangeri
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book - poetic and lyrical. A deeply sad book, full of grief and loss - loss of family, of culture and of home. A story of what has been stolen from our Indigenous people and the struggles and pain endured in their quest to find that connection.
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Still thinking about this book. Powerful, emotional and raw story about the pain and beauty of being a young Aborigine in modern Australia. I didn’t realise until I researched the author that the novel is semi-autobiographical. The last page is still circling in my mind ‘if they stop digging up Aunty’s backyard, stop digging up a mother’s memory, stop digging up all our people, maybe then, we’ll all stop crying’.
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Winch's fictional memoir projects the sadness of her young Aboriginal character, May Gibson, "attempting to make sense of the world." Its structure is often confusing for the reader regarding time and place, set up as a series of short "stories", all linked by May's physical and emotional journey. Yet, I felt that the author was deliberately creating this disorientation to mirror May's confusion as to where she belonged and with whom. As an Indigenous writer, a Wiradjuri, Winch is aptly placed t ...more
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Tara June Winch is an Australian (Wiradjuri) author. Her first novel, Swallow the Air won several literary awards. In 2008, she was mentored by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka as part of the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. After The Carnage, her second book was published in 2016 to critical acclaim. Her third, The Yield, was first published in 2019, to commercial and critical ...more

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“Pamtim šta mi je mama jednom rekla o brigama. Rekla je da kada brinemo, kada nas nešto vuče nadole, treba da hodamo. Da odemo u dobru, dugačku šetnju, rekla je. Ritam se mrsi za tobom, žuri da te prestigne, pa ono između, na neki način, stekne smisao. Jedna noga je tvoje srce, druga je tvoj um. Zajedno mogu da ti olakšaju brige, da ih razbistre. "Samo hodaj", rekla je, "samo hodaj.” 2 likes
“It’s an odd thing, a backyard, a little strip of nature, a little reminder of the rest of it, elsewhere.” 1 likes
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