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An Open Swimmer

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  684 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Jerra and his best mate Sean set off in a beaten-up old VW to go camping on the coast. Jerras friends and family want to know when he will finish university, and when he will find a girl. But they dont understand about Seans mother, Jewel, or the bush, or the fish with the pearl. They think he needs a job but what Jerra is searching for is more elusive. Only the sea, and p ...more
Paperback, 163 pages
Published 1998 by Penguin (first published June 1st 1982)
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3.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  684 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After absolutely loving Dirt Music, I was disappointed by An Open Swimmer.

I'm not someone who needs, or even likes, to have everything that's going on in a novel clearly explained... another reviewer put it perfectly: I enjoy "piecing stories together from fragments" until everything finally fits together and becomes clear. But in An Open Swimmer I found it a bit of a chore to read through sections where I had no idea what was going on or how it fitted into the picture, and it never quite all c
Rosemary Nissen-Wade
I read this when it first came out, to great acclaim. I thought the acclaim was absolutely deserved. It was a delight, a revelation, full of joy in the ocean. The ocean was the real main character and love interest! I remember the poignant story, a sort of coming-of-age story, but it is the ocean and the swimming which stay with me still, and particularly the feeling he creates around them. I take from the book a lasting sense of joy.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Winton is one of my favorite novelists. After a rough beginning with “The Riders” in 1996 that soured me on Winton for over 10 years, I ended up engrossed with “Dirt Music”, “Breath”, “The Riders” (after a second reading), “Cloudstreet”, “That Eye, That Sky”, “In the Winter Dark” and the collection of short stories, “The Turning”—all read in 2010 and running into 2011.

I am always suspicious of first novels, anticipating a certain rawness even from masters as Winton. I was, however, surprised
Ed Stoddard
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In haunting language, Winton traces the lives of those who have turned their backs on modernity for a hunter-gatherer existence on the edge of industrial society. This reader for one wants to some day take aim at an "open swimmer" (which refers to a fish ...)
Kate Krake
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
If it was a longer book, I probably wouldn't have read the whole thing. I usually enjoy having to piece stories together from fragments, but I found this a little too vague to enjoy. Also too overwritten for my tastes. Setting is captured perfectly but I found the characters were lost in the careful descriptions of place. I can see why people admire it though, as a first novel especially. I'm glad I already like Tim Winton from his later work before I read this.
Anne Hamilton
Jerra’s family want him to make something of himself. A girl and a job would be a good start.

But Jerra is tormented by secret memories – thoughts that beach themselves like broken shells caught in the tide wrack of an uneasy sexual awakening and a sense that he has betrayed those he loves.

On a bleak southern shoreline in Western Australia, Jerra meets an old codger whose conscience is as tortured as his own. Unable to confess or forgive, they find an ancient law/hope hovering in their mutilated
Steve Petherbridge
This is the first novel that I have read by Tim Winton. It was a page turner and written in a unique style. It centred on a young man growing up, but, yet to find a road to his destiny to true adulthood which impacted on the one real frienship he had. It is a novel about love on different levels, the secrecy of illicit love and the complexity of love among heterosexual males and the jealousies and frustrations this often brings. The role of the old man was interesting in drawing thoughts and an ...more
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An excellent first novel by a West Australian of remarkable promise in his writing. Set around a series of fishing trips undertaken by two old school friends. The story in many ways tells the history of them both, one straight, the other a dreamer who cannot settle to adult life. Very evocative of the WA coastline and the lifestyle of many late teenagers. A very good read though you have to work at it at times to understand what is going on. Highly recommended
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Readers can interpret in so many different ways. Was interested in how bits have been borrowed for more recent works. Great read, loved the interweaving of themes and unanswered questions.
Jessica Payne
This novel didn't appeal to me like some of Winton's other novels such as 'in the winter dark',' breath' and 'cloudstreet'. But pretty amazing to think he wrote this when he was so young.
Janita Knowles
Aug 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As a life-long lover of all books 'Winton', "An Open Swimmer" was an absolute labour of love. The only thing that kept me going was a commitment to 'hear Tim out', finish the read and make a fair judgement at the end. That being the case, my review is as follows:
1. I imagined that the editor and publisher had a quiet chat with the young Tim Winton at its publication and said something like..."Mate! Lighten up!" Truly, I have read perhaps most of Tim Winton's books and have a deep attraction to t
The first novel by Tim Winton, written when he was in his early 20's that covers many of the themes Winton must have been experiencing himself.
Jerra doesn't know what to do with his life, he's a dreamer and he spends his days watching his neighbour mow his lawn, working a terrible job in a deli / cafe and fishing with his father or with his friend Sean. Jerra likes fishing and has a mission to find a pearl in the head of a fish, supposedly the distilled experiences of the fish; people think it
Sam Schroder
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it fascinating to read this book so many years after having read almost all of his other books, including all three of his memoirs. Everything I love about Winton is there - his sparse, evocative prose and his ability to hide so much yet at the same time have you aching with concern for his troubled, troubling characters. In this story we meet Jerra, a person with too many expectations placed upon him. He’s dropped out of uni, can’t hold a job, and can’t stand to be around his family and ...more
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Winton’s early writing and his descriptive style is already apparent. He has the remarkable skill of creating an intense atmosphere just by describing the environment. I would also say that some of the themes that grip him in this early writing (like coming of age and domestic violence) continue to appear in his subsequent novels with slightly more depth. My main difficulties with this novel relate to the graphic and repeated killing of animals and the sudden and frequent scene shifts wh ...more
Jan Jackson
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, I LOVE Winton. His sentences are a sumptuous, lyrical poetry, and serve to render simple lives as rich and meaningful.

This book sings of the sea; the people within it are inhabitants of the beach and shore, and become more and more lost as they withdraw from it.

Treasure is not to be found amongst the rocks and reefs, but beyond, in the dark, colder waters of the ocean.

But to get there... that’s the journey...

There’s the trademark Winton style at play here - jumbled plot lines, shamanic vi
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Has some high points but not his best work.
Bek Day
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I just could not connect with the characters on this book and found it almost a chore to read. Was very disappointed, given how much I normally love Wintons work.
David Orrett
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-audio
Mirko Liang
Jul 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know, I didn't really connect with this one.
Clare Snow
I read this as a teenager because it won the Vogel Award. Back then, I planned on winning the Vogel Award. I had no idea what was going on in this story, but I figured I could write a totally incomprehensible story too. I've written plenty of incomprehensible stories since, they also happen to be shit.

I give it no rating because I'm not sure I actually liked reading it. Decades later I'm not going to subject myself to it again. I do like Winton's other books, this one is just...
Feb 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apparently this is Tim Winton's first book, written when he was in his early 20's - if so, it is a masterful effort!

This is a coming of age story, which weaves back and forth in time, some of the references seemed to be a little disconnected, or maybe I just did not get where the author was going with his train of thought. Reading various reviews after I finished the book helped to fill in a few gaps, and I think I managed to suss out main themes and ideas with their help. It did not occur to m
Jane Rose
What was this book about ? I get that sometimes an author doesn't want to dot all the i's and cross all the t's in a book to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. This book certainly does that to the extent that I don't really know what the book was about. Yes it was about Jerra and Sean growing up and apart. There is a very convoluted relationship between Jerra's dad, Joe ( Sean's Dad ) and Jewel who is a relation of Jerra, I think. I did like the description of the camping and fishin ...more
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Spare writing interspersed with prose create this coming of age tale. Sparse descriptions and evocative landscape are my main take aways from the story. It's all a metaphor, it's fragmented and I don't understand some plot points. That's ok though because the ocean steals the show. Winton loves the ocean and this, his first book, is no exception. Not his finest in terms of reading ease, but a fascinating, emotive book nonetheless.
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, 2012

Tim Winton is one of my favourite authors but from this book i can only say that I finished it. Don't ask me what it is about. There was off course Jerra who went fishing with his dad and more recently with his friend Sean. There is Sean's mother who is mentally ill (well that's what I understood))and whom Jerra used to visit regularly. There's an old man living in a hut near the ocean whose wife seems to have drowned. There's.........
Andy Kabanoff
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Went back to read an old favourite - Winton's first novel – I love its complexity, depth, layers, allusions . . . such a probing exploration of a young man's heart and soul. A camping trip with a mate off the wintry coast near Albany; an old guilt-ridden hermit, Jerras's own guilts and fruitless search for his pearl. Cryptic in the best way. It may be too obscure for many but I haven't read a Winton novel I've liked more.
Laura Walin
A Western Australian boy in his late teens is trying to find out what to do in his life. The storyline is a bit difficult to follow as it hops between the now and the significant events in the past. For me, it could have been a little clearer for me to really like this book. Also, the main character was a bit too melodramatic for my tastes.
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the way that this guy writes, but wow some of his books are black. This is a beautifully written story full of damaged characters. Metaphorical and lyrical but don't read it if you are easily depressed!
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the fragmentation and the ambiguity. I loved not knowing exactly what was going on and the unanswered questions. I loved the descriptions of the landscape and the intricate details of fishing, camping and everything else. Guess you could say I loved it.
Oct 24, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Finding this book a bit hard going because, quite frankly, I regard it as quite boring, but I will endeavor to complete it...I feel compelled to!

Did not finish it..........mega-boring...yawn...sorry Tim.
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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