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Hailed as a classic, Tim Winton's masterful family saga is both a paean to working-class Australians and an unflinching examination of the human heart's capacity for sorrow, joy, and endless gradations in between. An award-winning work, Cloudstreet exemplifies the brilliant ability of fiction to captivate and inspire.

Struggling to rebuild their lives after being touched by disaster, the Pickle family, who've inherited a big house called Cloudstreet in a suburb of Perth, take in the God-fearing Lambs as tenants. The Lambs have suffered their own catastrophes, and determined to survive, they open up a grocery on the ground floor. From 1944 to 1964, the shared experiences of the two overpopulated clans -- running the gamut from drunkenness, adultery, and death to resurrection, marriage, and birth -- bond them to each other and to the bustling, haunted house in ways no one could have anticipated.

426 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Tim Winton

87 books1,876 followers
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, won the Miles Franklin Award in 1984. It wasn't until Cloudstreet was published in 1991, however, that his career and economic future were cemented.

In 1995 Winton’s novel, The Riders, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, as was his 2002 book, Dirt Music. Both are currently being adapted for film. He has won many other prizes, including the Miles Franklin Award three times: for Shallows (1984), Cloudstreet (1992) and Dirt Music (2002). Cloudstreet is arguably his best-known work, regularly appearing in lists of Australia’s best-loved novels. His latest novel, released in 2013, is called Eyrie.

He is now one of Australia's most esteemed novelists, writing for both adults and children. All his books are still in print and have been published in eighteen different languages. His work has also been successfully adapted for stage, screen and radio. On the publication of his novel, Dirt Music, he collaborated with broadcaster, Lucky Oceans, to produce a compilation CD, Dirt Music – Music for a Novel.

He has lived in Italy, France, Ireland and Greece but currently lives in Western Australia with his wife and three children.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,772 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
385 reviews516 followers
July 2, 2011
Here's how my reading of Cloudstreet progressed:

First week: Ok, this is pretty good, I guess.

Second week: Hm, I don't know about this.

Third week: Oh god, I think I'm going to throw up. Seriously, I think I'm going to throw up and I'm not kidding. Ok, I'm actually gagging on the subway.

Fourth week: Ok, I have to read my book, but I know it will make me nauseated. I just know it.

Fifth week: GOD this book is a bore.

Sixth week: Hey, this is pretty good . . . . Ok, it was going pretty well for a while there, but BORED NOW . . . . Hey, this is a pretty good book . . . . Man, I am loving this book!

Seventh week: Damn, I'm at the office, so and I can't read my book! Maybe I can read some during this 12-minute break . . . . Whoa, is it 2:00 already? . . . .

Eighth week: Wow, this is a good book . . . . SHIT, I missed my subway stop!!!

End of eighth week: No, I won't put my book down. Go away.

So, yeah. Started out lukewarm, moved to actively hating it, but something about it kept me coming back -- probably the really strong characters. So I'd recommend sticking with this one if you're not immediately grabbed.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,766 followers
February 18, 2011
Tim Winton is a most spiritual writer. It's shameful in a world of bloated, overachieving prose that screams to the top of best-selling lists that someone as connected to the forces of nature and the foibles of man should be so little known.

Cloudstreet chronicles the aching, bitter, crude, and sweet fortunes of two Australian families, the Lambs and the Pickles, from 1944-64. Brought together by need, greed, tragedy and a mysterious Other, the families' stories collide and spring away over the years. They live in the same rotting mansion, separated by thin walls and different ambitions. The families' regard for each other alternates between disgust and wonder, passion and forgiveness as their children and their backwater state of Western Australia grow up and away.

Winton tells the classic tale of messy, intolerable families- how each is a unique disaster and a treasure. But this is no ordinary familial saga. Winton's writing is in a class of its own. He is fearless -- calmly and confidently taking the reader from literal, linear storytelling to a subtle state of magical realism.

This is an unforgettable book, both for its content and its style. I was struck by the universality of his themes and the recognizable nature of his characters. These working class families would be at home in Appalachia, the timber forests of Oregon, the fishing villages of the north Atlantic Coast. Mr. Winton must be a national treasure in Australia. We'd do well to show him a larger welcome mat here in North America.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews858 followers
September 21, 2021
In 1924, the rural based hard working class families the Lambs and the Pickles (yes this story has a darkly comedic lilt) both flee family tragedies and poverty, and find themselves sharing the same sprawling house in Perth, No. 1 Cloudstreet. The renters, the Lambs are a religious hard-working family that believe you have to work hard to get and appreciate what you have, while the family gifted No.1 Cloudstreet, the Fishes look to Lady Luck to survive the rigors of modern urban living. Told across decades, with an assortment(!) of omniscient narrators in a quasi stream-of-thought style with touches of magical realism, this steam-roller of a soap opera is almost of a writing genre of its own!

Sometimes, and when I say sometimes, I actually mean very rarely, I will start reading a book and think, wow this is some writer, how the Hell have I not heard of them before - this is one of those occasions. From the first page I struggled with the writing style, and by the third page I relished it! Dealing with the struggles of urban life, the families, the relationships, the people that bring you down, the aspirations, the failures, the nightmares and more, this is an amazing read that will haunt my daytime thoughts for months to come. There's also world and Australian history acting as a backdrop from the World Wars through to the Kennedy Assassination. But more than anything, for me, it asks what is a family and how much is a physical home (No.1 Cloudstreet?) a part of that family? One of the best Australian books I have ever read, and muchly recommended to each and everyone of you. 9 out of 12.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
October 19, 2017
I couldn't remember why I wanted to read this book, by the time I opened it. What the heck got into me for choosing it in the first place, I was thinking, when it was clear from the start that we were sinking fast into the dungeons of the gritty, bleak misery of life in the psycho-dumps. Emotionally I still needed cozy, feel-goodness on pages. Escapism à la the extreme. I was simply not ready for this book.

I wanted to close it and choose another book, but instinctively I knew that I wouldn't want to return to it. Okay then, I thought after the first 150 pages, let's go for the half way mark to be fair, and then decide. Some ten hours later, of which about four were sleep-deprived, I closed the book with absolute wonderment pouring from my soul. I knew, for sure, that this will be an unforgettable story. One of those soul-reapers that left the reader drained, emotionally down and out, sort of. The Cloudstreet Ripper, it could be called.

But no, that was not the case at all. In the end, I was dancing with joy and merriment on the blankets by the river alongside the Lambs and Pickles with a song on the lips and a sad grand finale lurking in the corners of my soul. The familiarity of the accordion jubilee, performed by Lester Lamb, chasing off the realities of life into the abysses of their doom, clung to my memory forever. Just like life itself. The good and bad. Heartbreaking and heartwarming. The Cloudstreet definition of happiness.

Cloudstreet no. 1. Perth. Australia. It was the address of the grand old dilapidated, sprawling mansions with its gigantic rooms, 20 bedrooms, one bathroom, and an outhouse for the rest. It was Joel's gift to Sam and Donna Pickles upon his death. It was one of those deaths in which Sam's bad luck took the center stage, after he already lost four fingers in the machinery at a factory and his family were already resident in the back rooms of Joel's bar. Stuck with the old colossal dumb for twenty years before it could be sold, gambling Sam and Dolly the drunk had no other choice but find a way to keep it standing. Prospering was not in the works for both the house or the family. Ted, Rose and Chub were the unfortunate young children to call Sam and Dolly their parents for the rest of their lives. They refused to be on the dole, with Sam unable to work with only one hand. Yet, they had a plan.

In moved the Lambs. Lester and Oreil with their six remaining off-springs. Fish, the oldest, and Quick the second oldest, with four others siblings as peripheral characters in the tale. Cloudstreet no. 1 became a divided house. On the one side was the 'prosperous' Lambs with their shop on the ground floor, with Oriel beating the drum to the family's marches, and Lester baking his way to a better living, with his secret ice cream recipe luring the customers from far and wide. On the other side was Dolly Pickles, who missed spreading her legs in the bar hovels far away in their hometown, and Sam Pickles pressing his luck all around. He was a born loser and kind of proud of the fact. Bad luck was truly a gift.

The hall between the two sides was the no-mans-land. Neutral ground. For twenty years, between the 1940s- and '60's it was a silent, impenetrable barrier. It was as though luck defined it.
It was as though luck made choices, that it could think. If you greeted it, it came to you; if you shunned it, it backed away.
The old grand dame of dilapidation had her own story to tell. The music room at the end of the hall, was a dark, moldy room with no windows, no light. It was the place where the old wealthy woman died in solitude, with her nose stuck to middle C on the piano when she was eventually found.

Fish was the only one who could hear middle C monotonously toggling itself through the darkness of the haunted story of the music room. Fish could hear it. Fish talked to the piano, he played it, protect its secrets, consoled it. As he could hear the pig talking in the back yard; as he could see the shadows of children dancing around a fire out in the bush. As he could hear the water creatures calling his name. Fish lived in his own world, after he was saved from drowning and declared a miracle by his Gawd-fearing parents, Oriel and Lester. Ever since that incident, Fish only returned half way back to the world. The rest of it got stuck in his silent reflections, while staring at the ceiling in his room. And Lester and Oriel waved Gawd good bye for the next twenty years.

It was only after reading the ending that the secret of this book hit me between the eyes. The real narrator was revealed, with here and there some tips in the book, that there actually was a secret narrator. 'Dumbfoundingly' brilliant, it overturned every single conclusion I came to all through the tale of the two families battling life and each other out in picturesque, emotionally-charged prose. Each character wrote their own life stories in the tale. Each layer of the plot was well-defined, but one layer remained hidden ...

It was only at the very end, that I wanted to bawl my eyes out. Because the hardship of the two Australian working-class families was the main focus, but the tragedy laid in the effect it had on the anonymous narrator. And to realize who it was in the end, ripped my heart out completely. Shell-shocked. Overwhelmed.

Although the book did not feature as a mystery, it was certainly one of the most outstanding ones I have ever read. When the accordion and convivial celebrations died away, I was left with tears rolling down my face, drowning the smile right around my head. Remember Luck? It made choices. Never forget that.

Cloudstreet is simply a brilliant book!
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,128 followers
May 14, 2020
Well, I finally read Cloudstreet (I know, I know) and I have thoughts!

This story of two families sharing a ramshackle old house in post-war Perth is heavy on the nostalgia and a little too charmed by itself at times, but it is clear why it’s a sentimental favourite among Aussies.

The Good

When Winton’s writing is on form, it is such a treat. There’s music in it. Check out this description of a two-up game:

‘From above, the two-up circle looks like a sea creature, some simple hungry organism in the water of night. A sea anemone whose edges rise and fall as bodies press and spread with two glittering morsels turning and dangling in its maw. Two coins spinning above the pulsating mouth, catching light and shining to tantalize. But they’re men down there and the coins’ light shines on them the way the sun and moon have never done.’

It's a striking image, and he manages to make these sweaty, grubby, boozy gamblers otherworldly and beautiful. Whenever Winton writes about the landscape—wheatfields, rivers—the prose sparkles in the same way.

The Bad

Colloquial dialogue is all well and good, but by crikey! it’s laid on with a trowel here. Carn Tim, ease up cobber, orright! Sometimes less is more mate.

There is a huge crew of characters and they range from decent (Fish, Oriel, Sam) to cardboard-thin (Lester, Dolly, Quick, Rose, Red), to complete non-entities (Hat, Elaine, Ted, Chub, Lon, Beryl). Half of them serve no other purpose than to make up the numbers, so that the shared house feels crowded and rambunctious. Winton tends to lean on broad strokes, even caricature, rather than developing the main players fully.

Nostalgia can be tricky sometimes, and I have to remind myself that this book was written in the early nineties, when pining for Menzies-era Australia didn’t have quite the same ‘piss off, we’re full’ whiff about it compared to now. But I must admit that Cloudstreet has a parochial tinge that rubs me the wrong way a bit. And if I’m being totally honest, that might be why I didn’t completely take these larrikin characters and their fair dinkum Australianisms into my heart.

The Indifferent

I’m usually pretty keen on magical realism… but here I was just ehhh. There were some gorgeous moments, like the scene where Fish and Quick are on a boat, and the river and everything else just falls away so that they are left floating in a starscape. So dreamy. But other bits were irritating, like the talking pig which seemed to be there just for some added ‘quirk’.

Other supernatural elements—that have been critiqued more eloquently elsewhere—include a smattering of benevolent Aboriginal ghosts, as well as the intellectually-disabled Fish being somewhat clairvoyant. At best, this sort of mystical ‘othering’ makes the book feel dated, and reading these sections is mildly uncomfortable.

Plot-wise, this is a twenty-year series of events without much of an arc. I guess that’s the way with most family sagas, but this one seems particularly lacking in shape. It just sort of ambles along, things happen, births and deaths and marriages, but nothing stands out as more significant than the rest (although I perked up when the Nedlands monster made an appearance—giving the novel some much needed darkness to balance out its sentimentality, albeit only briefly). This, I think, is why people love to re-read it: you can just live inside Cloudstreet for a while, and then you’re done… but you can visit again whenever you want.

A LOT of people adore Cloudstreet, think of it as the quintessential Australian novel, count it among their favourite books of all time. I can see why. A much smaller number of people find it insufferable, and I kind of see where they’re coming from too. For me it falls somewhere in the middle. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Jodi.
357 reviews80 followers
March 2, 2022
At last! It's 3 a.m. and I've just finished Cloudstreet. It took a full two weeks to read it—not because it dragged or bored me. Heavens no! It's because it was so damned wonderful—magnificent even—that I wanted to taste every single word, swirl it around on my tongue, savour it until the final morsel was done. This book, without a word of a lie, was the best, most memorable, simply intoxicating, absolutely magical, sublime story I've read in at least the last 20 years.

Two down-on-their-luck families were fated to meet—the Pickles and the Lambs. The novel follows this "mob"—as they begin desperate, and later find prosperity, through periods of tribulation and of joy—for an entire generation (about 20 years). During that time we come to know the members of the Pickles clan (Mom, Dad, 2 sons, a daughter, a cockatoo) and the large, God-fearing Lamb family (Mom, Dad, 3 sons, 3 daughters). As with all families, they had their ups and downs; some were loveable, others were aggravating. And then there was Fish Lamb—the beautiful, golden-haired boy who was loved by all.

Winton dives deep into their souls, so much so that you'll feel you actually know them. And if you're very lucky, you might come to know them so well you'll feel like part of the family! And Family is most definitely the centrepiece of the story—their history and the love they shared. At one point, the eldest Lamb son, Quick, summed it up well:
"... They lived like some newspaper cartoon – yokels, bumpkins, fruitcakes in their passed down mended up clothes, ordered like an army floorshow. They worked their bums off and took life seriously: there was good and bad, punishment and reward and the isolation of queerness. But there was love too, and always there was music and dancing and jokes, even in the miserable times..."
In my opinion, this story was perfection! There's not one single thing I would change. Winton wrote the book over a four-year period. How wonderful it must have been for him to live with these amazing people for such a long time! It's certain he'll never forget them; I don't think I will either.

And so it goes without saying... Five ridiculously perfect stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
116 reviews40 followers
May 4, 2018
A sure 2018 favorite for me. My first Tim Winton
but definitely not the last.
A story set in Perth, Western Australia primarily during the 1940s and 1950s. Two profoundly different working-class families, the reckless Pickles (think horse gambling) and the responsible Lams (imagine opening a family grocery shop) saw their fate intertwined merely through physical proximity by sharing a haunted large house on Cloudstreet. What they also shared was the misfortune that each family had a member disabled by a Traumatic event; Sam Pickles, the dad, lost four of his fingers to a barge cable while loading guano to be shipped to mainland, and Lamb’s second son Fish survived from drowning during a fishing trip, yet was left with severe brain damage.
The book was about how 12 ordinary people evolved along with their neighborhood in nearly two decades , picking up their lives bit by bit from the ashes of WW2. The scope and depth of the intra-family and inter-family interactions are way beyond this review, but suffice to say there were harmonies and clashes, trust and unfaithfulness, and every color on the rainbow of human interrelation: animosity, tolerance, friendship and love.
Winton’s depiction of characters was exquisite. I closed the book with a number of characters stuck in my head for days; For example, the moms of the two families couldn’t be more different: “sergeant-major” matriarch Oriel Lamb was omnipresent yet was never in the epic center of a drama like the gorgeous but emotionally damaged Dolly Pickles, who required more adult supervision than her own children.
The human strengths and flaws are universal, and the Western Aussie landscape provided a unique canvas for the overall painting. The otherwise prosaic everyday lives were spiced up by magical realism beings like a talking pig, and the invisible hands of Shifty Shadow.
The book is a perfect combination of ordinary and extraordinary, and a feast for those keen to gain perspective in Aussie Aboriginal culture and history.
The suspense at the beginning of the book suggested a potential tragedy—someone was about to jump into the river and commit suicide. it carried me increasingly captivated along the way. At the end, it would be anyone’s interpretation whether what ultimately happened represent a tragedy or a happy ending.
Have to admit the book was a challenging read for me. Besides the Aussie parlance, there were Winton’s experimentation of bespoke expressions. I’m so glad I prevailed.
Strongly recommend it. I feel I need to give it a second read at some point.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,256 reviews451 followers
January 21, 2014
This is a great, sprawling, epic family saga that makes you glad you're a reader, just so you can live the lives of these characters for the length of the novel. It's 20 years in the lives of the Lambs and the Pickles, who share a house in Perth, Australia. Not that I' m comparing Tim Winton to Tolstoy, but just like "War and Peace", this novel encompasses every emotion and human foible and goodness in mankind. Pick an adjective; it' s in this book. You ll love and hate and grow old and die, you'll hurt and rejoice and pick yourself up and start again. There's a bit of mysticism, some things that can't be explained and probably shouldn't be, because sometimes that's just the way things are. What a book! I spent 6 days with these people, and I'll miss them, but I won't forget them.
Profile Image for Ben Winch.
Author 4 books345 followers
October 5, 2022
It's over 15 years since I read this and I may not read it again in a hurry, but I remember liking it despite Winton's name being mud in my house thanks to an envious writer-father who couldn't understand why he kept getting all the grants. Not even Mum would defend Winton in those days, though she'd come out swinging for Peter Carey, someone I've never been able to stomach. And the truth is until Cloudstreet Tim Winton was probably the sort of writer who, had he suddenly vanished into obscurity, could easily have been dismissed as an also-ran. But here's where he grows into himself, where he unbuttons the constricting Hemingway obsession (fairly common among Australian writers in the 80s) and lets it all hang out, and where, once and for all, he eclipses that cold-hearted big-headed ex-advertising man (Carey) and becomes a kind of institution. Sentimental? Decidedly so. Populist? Check. In thrall to a newfound obsession with Garcia Marquez (influence of choice for Australian writers in the 90s)? You bet. Add to this an idealised retro Aussie idiom that is roughly the equivalent of 'aw shucks' to an American and you've got a book that looks pretty hard to defend in synopsis. And to be honest I really can't remember what saves it, except for the overriding physicality and lyrical descriptions of the sea that are Winton's trademarks, and except for the size of the man's heart. Since Cloudstreet Winton has become the type of a writer who dives into big books without a life jacket and swims out to the deep water. In Dirt Music he nearly drowned - somewhere around the middle his pulse lessened to near-insignificance, and the ending was laughable, crazy. But even when embarrassing himself so shamelessly he still flew the flag for the type of writing that doesn't know where it's going before it gets there, which follows the dictates of the heart. Me, I kind of tuned out around then, but I still remember Cloudstreet fondly, and recommend it to anyone interested in Australian fiction. It's not, and never was, 'state of the art', but it's gutsy and real and some kind of an event. It's pop culture, and it ain't going away soon. I hear The Turning is good too.
Profile Image for Suz.
1,097 reviews565 followers
December 9, 2022
What a classic. My son’s English teacher recommended I read this book at the same time as she asked the class to read this during the last school holidays. As I spoke to her I had the niggling idea that I probably did own this one. A couple of minutes later I found it on my shelf. I find I am receiving a lot of books from publishers and authors and this takes away a little of my ‘choice’ factor, in picking up a lovely book from one of my shelves. [Or random pile]. I am known to have various piles, and a few are even holding up a [clean] pot plant.

I listened to the audio in combination with the physical book. I did this to speed up the process as I was on a review deadline for another. This was a great way which I had not done before. I wrote one quote down, which epitomises the grass roots Australian feel of this book, and the way that this iconic author simply is an excellent writer.

Motionless as a shire committee Don’t you just love it?

This is around 1940 and 1950, so we are witness to familial relationships, connection with nature and the strength of family to prosper and possibly thrive in hard and rural times. Two contrasting Australian families come together reluctantly at first and out of necessity. These families the Lamb’s and the Pickle’s are as different as their namesakes are an excellent match. The kids are rat bags, they play, skirmish, explore and some even help their parents get work done. There is more family connection that I sense is lacking today.

I was witness to the working class and reminded that these were some bloody hard times, especially when these two groups of people suffered the extraordinary hardships that they did.

Converging on Cloudstreet out of necessity after separate tragedies, lives are forged ahead and relationships blossom and falter. The Pickles patriarch is obsessed with the notion of life being all about luck, but this Sam Pickle is everything but. His ultimate saving grace is an unexpected windfall of inheriting the rambling huge structure that is Cloudstreet, and if walls could talk, which it seems Cloudstreet does, there is so much to be told.

Enter the Lambs; hardworking, robust and opposite to the Pickles, renting out half of the enigmatic property. Children are everywhere, noise, cooking smells, one clean yard, one catastrophic, both, initially, separated by a fence creating the definite distinction separating the lazy and depressed, and the hard working.

The matriarchs also as different as can be; Dolly Pickles only faithful to the grog, unhinged and drifting, Oriel Lamb almost a woman man; with manly hands and a stocky build, the hardest worker of the lot, and as one of her offspring states, she’s just to bloody good at everything. At one stage Oriel retreats to live in a tent in the back yard and a grocery business is born in the Lamb’s half. The Pickles sorely need this income and life steams ahead for the next twenty years.

The theme of water is a tragic one, even one of the children is called Fish, and Fish Lamb adores the water and would skylark there forever given the chance. Some of the children carried the burden of the times, Rose Pickles was a complex daughter, having to carry too much weight on her tiny shoulders and dealing with a mother with even more complex problems. Another Pickle was a very interesting study of Australian boyhood. Quick. Quick Lamb adores his younger brother, Fish. Quick also seems to carry the weight on his shoulders and has seen too much wrong for his young years. He has an obvious empathy for the human spirit and has taken to clipping out tragic stories and putting them on his wall, he is troubled and has seen harsh things.

This book was an extraordinary Australian one, I needed to look up old colloquialisms to ensure I could enjoy this properly. Tim Winton captured the essence and nuance of Australian life, mateship, hard work, larrikinism and grief in a special and, I don’t say this lightly, haunting way.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,211 reviews132 followers
November 14, 2022
Gorgeous, chaotic, tragic, hopeful and full of the kind of familial love that reminds me (ever so slightly) of my own crazy family.

It was a breathtaking read, not unlike a Faulkner tale had he written of Australia and not the Deep South.

A huge thank you to the reviewer who posted such an intriguing review that I immediately downloaded Cloudstreet. I believe Fish, Rose, Quick, Oriel, Lester, Sam and Dolly will be with me for years to come.

It was just magical literature in its hard scrabble, luckless and full of life way!
Profile Image for Anne.
403 reviews74 followers
March 29, 2022
"He did not think of home, but home thought of him."

Cloudstreet is novel set in 1943 Australia about two working-class families – the Lambs and the Pickles – and it follows them for twenty years through a multitude of emotions. The characterization in this book is amazing! What a wonderful book club read this would be!

Sam, the superstitious Pickles family patriarch, inherited an enormous house on Cloudstreet in Perth, Australia, and they waste no time in leaving their rural home for the city. Sam, the one-handed, unlucky gambler, and his wife, Dolly, the imbibing, self-centered beauty; his daughter intelligent, reliable Rose; and his two sons Ted and Chub arrive with no money, few belongings, and wonder how to get food. Sam’s big idea is to subdivide the house and rent the other half of it.

Lester Lamb, jobless and broke, flees the rural landscape with his family for the city. That is how the Lambs met the Pickles, they become the Pickles’ tenant. The industrious Lamb family devise a way to make money in a place where the prospects look slim; they use the ground floor of their rental space to sell groceries, capitalizing on a need for a closer food store to Cloudstreet. The whole Lamb family works at the store; Lester and his wife, Oriel, a strong and determined woman; their three daughters, Hattie, Elaine, and Red; and their three sons, lazy Lon, sensitive Fish Lamb, and practical Quick Lamb.

The Lamb’s business becomes successful much to the jealously of the Pickles. These families contrast each other in so many ways and will continue to do so for years to come.

This character driven story spans twenty years. You get to know a few people from each family (3 Pickles – Sam, Dolly, and Rose and 4 – Lambs – Lester, Oriel, Fish, & Quick) . I felt neutral yet interested in all of them. In fact, it was hard to look away from their baggage. These families have a range of character flaws and challenges. I liked how authentic each one felt; the way the bulimia, alcoholism, traumatic brain injury was handled rang true. Events from history – mostly wars – were mentioned only in the background, except for an Australian serial killer, who figured prominently in small part of the story. I didn’t care for the killer’s viewpoint, but these few paragraphs could easily be skipped.

It took a little time to acclimate to the writing because it lacked quotations, but the precise word choice, vividly drawn scenes, and mild wry humor made me a fan. Best of all were the profound little gems found at the end of some narratives. In the ten sections of the book, the viewpoint often switches - so a viewpoint may be several pages in length or a single paragraph. I never felt confused by these narratives as each part had a clear voice and a title. And I loved the working-class dialogue which was rich with culture.

The story and elements make this a wonderful book for a discussion group. It is bursting with symbolism and themes. From symbols like the house, with Sam thinking “some nights he can feel the floor move like the house is breathing,” to the frequent role alcohol plays with Dolly’s character, to the themes of money, superstition, and jealousy. At times, the story felt dream-like, leaving room for individual interpretation. It was evident some characters saw or felt something ghost-like in the house and some see a religious figure – or that’s what I thought it was meant to be – that appeared to them in a time of distress, whose appearance varied, but was marked by the action of pulling out of their pocket a timepiece the size of a dinner plate.

This was weird and wonderful fiction (with a touch of magical realism and allegory)! The adversity these characters faced was engrossing, but the book didn’t depress me. I found myself rooting for them. I finished satisfied with the ending and making plans for a reread (to catch all the stuff I missed the first go round). Too bad I wasn’t able to locate the mini-series adaption of the book, maybe you can.
1 review1 follower
October 3, 2011
I really cannot see the appeal of the book or why it is rated so highly. There were several things about the book that really annoyed me and really removed any enjoyment I may have derived from reading it.

Winton, in my opinion is one of those authors who believes he is so much better than he actually is. The absence of a complication made the book seem more a series of mundane events rather than an engaging story. The descriptiveness hailed by some was to me agonising. Do we really need a Where are the quotation marks?

I am an Australian and proud of my identity, but Winton's personal political and spiritual bias manages to cloud (pun intended) any meaning and any indication of the true Australia and leaves just the bare events, stereotypical characters and personal opinions.

Unless you like pretentious, over-hyped literature, save yourself a long, tedious read and do not pick up this printed soap-opera.
142 reviews86 followers
May 7, 2020
Fair Dinkum (unquestionably good or genuine: excellent) adequately sums up this book for me. A vast array of Aussie Slang was interesting and fun once I over came the frustration; Sheila, crikey, ta, clacker, arse over tit, shit house, etc. which was found in the Aussie Slang Dictionary. Fantastic character development and the members of these two families will remain with me for a long while.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,909 followers
May 21, 2012
If you think your family is strange, you're probably right, but they can't be any weirder than the Pickles and the Lambs. For twenty years the two families occupy the same sprawling, rundown, semi-haunted house in Perth. Through walls and windows they overhear and observe each other's joys, lamentations, and secrets. When Mrs. Lamb moves out of the house and pitches a tent in the yard, then everyone on Cloud Street knows things are not strictly normal in the Pickle/Lamb residence.

For a long time the two families largely avoid each other and pretend to be minding their own business, but gradually they overcome their suspicions of each other's ways and begin to intermingle their fates. Their combined strengths, weaknesses, and sorrows make for a funky and often raucous existence as they weather wars, weddings, deaths, and poverty from 1944 through 1964.

Upon finishing the book I gave it a mental four stars, with overall bleakness as my excuse for withholding the fifth star. Ten days later, when I sat down to write a review, I decided Winton's character development alone makes it worthy of the highest rating.

The gradual emergence of each character's complete personality is perfect in its naturalness. It's exactly the way you'd get to know people in real life. Just when you think you've got someone all figured out, they exhibit a behavior or share a secret that reconfigures everything you thought you knew.

You're likely to feel compassion and exasperation in equal measures as you follow the changing fortunes of the Pickles and the Lambs. When someone you care about is struggling, you wonder, "Why don't they just (insert your solution)?" But as you learn more about them, you realize they're doing the only thing they know how to do given the losses and limitations they've been handed since birth. Tim Winton allows this truth to unfold so perfectly between the parents and children of the two families. You may not like every one of the Pickles and the Lambs, but they'll never bore you.

I love the way Tim Winton weaves the beauty and power of nature into his novels. It's a source of solace for his characters as well as a source of fear and loss. Those forces seem to be especially fierce in his native Australia, and he uses them to great effect, sneaking in a little of the mystical without quite straying into animism.

Profile Image for Left Coast Justin.
390 reviews78 followers
July 26, 2022
Having just finished this addictively readable and very moving story by Tim Winton, I find it difficult to explain exactly where his magic lies. This is the second long family drama I've read recently, the other being Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, and they couldn't be more different in style. For me, Winton's style is much more engaging.

Maybe Winton, more than most authors, recognizes that we are each and every one of us afflicted with conflicts between our minds and our bodies, and uses this to create situations that everybody can relate to. We all know the feeling of having something important to do, but all we can think about is how desperately we need a bathroom. Or that a certain individual, because they are so sexy, holds power over us that we wish they didn't. Or the slow, day-by-day loss of strength and dexterity that takes hold even as our minds grow sharper and more experienced.

Winton understands the urges, discomforts, pains and releases that drive us each day, no matter how they may conflict with our plans. Some characters in this book have spectacular failures of the body bestowed on them by fate. Others, while perfectly healthy, behave in ways that had me clutching my head and (figuratively) screaming at them to stop acting like idiots. (Because I, of course, have never acted like an idiot.)

One interpretation of this book is that the miracle of babies overrides all other concerns. You could do worse in coming up with a theme for a novel.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,044 reviews902 followers
November 16, 2019
Cloudstreet was the first Winton novel I read. At the time, I had lived in Perth for less than two years, I was still discovering the city.

For those outside Australia, Perth is the capital of Western Australia (WA), one of the most isolated capital cities in the world. The better known Sydney and Melbourne are "only" 4, 5 hrs away by plane. Those huge cities are where things are happening. Most publishers are located in one of those two cities. If I'm not mistaken, Winton is one of the first WA writers to make it big in Australia. Cloudstreet won the Miles Franklin Award, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Australia. Of course, that's not why I adore him, I don't do patriotism, I don't necessarily think that being from a place or another makes one better or worse, even though geography does impact one's views, opportunities etc. It's nice to read about a place you know personally. Long story short, Tim Winton is the best promoter of WA and isn't it wonderful that it's via culture - not via our usual primary industry exports.

Anyway, it was wonderful to (re)visit with the Pickles and the Lambs, in their huge, rundown mansion on Cloudstreet, Perth over a twenty-year period (1943 - 63). I rediscovered some of the details and nuances that time had blurred away. It was an enjoyable reading experience just like the first time around.
Profile Image for Ace.
433 reviews23 followers
January 29, 2018
For one time in a million the blurb is almost a concise summary of what you will find and experience in this book. It should be a must read for all Australians who will connect with this extremely authentic portrait of post war life in Perth. It is absolutely brilliantly told, it will make you laugh and cry and even a little bit sick every now and then. Note to Mr Winton: sometimes less is more when it comes to hairy ass cracks. 5 stars, 6 if I could.
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
713 reviews591 followers
July 4, 2021
73rd book of 2021. Artist for this review is Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira (1902-1959).

3.5. I haven't deliberated so much over a rating in a while and I'm not the only one, it seems many people in the review section deliberated greatly over what to rate this novel. For starters: Winton's prose is glorious and some of the best prose I've read from a contemporary novel in a long while. Simply, this is a novel about two families under the same roof (No.1 Cloud Street) from the years of 1945-1965, roughly. The blurb gives perhaps the strangest quotes I've ever read concerning a novel, namely this one: "Imagine Neighbours being taken over by the writing team of John Steinbeck and Gabriel García Márquez and you'll be close to the heart of Winton's impressive tale." Steinbeck for the stunning prose regarding nature and the setting and Márquez for the strange glimpses into magical realism.


It started with great promise and I was foreseeing 5-stars. The middle of the novel sags a little and the ending is strong. Generally, the novel felt more than just 400 pages long; this is probably down to the wide cast of characters and short chapters that are constantly flipping between them. A great amount of "stuff" happens, but also nothing happens. People get married, people have arguments, people lose money, people get pregnant, it's all fairly mundane happenings. Then, subtly, in the background, a boy glows like a lightbulb, the pig in the garden can talk, (there are Aborigine ghosts haunting one of the characters?), the "slow boy" is slightly clairvoyant. Naturally with such a large cast of characters, Winton barely develops some. Both families have numerous kids and many of them were mentioned here and there and had short chapters to themselves but were mostly forgettable. Fish is one of the best characters. Quick also takes most of the spotlight. I didn't care much for either set of parents or any of their troubles. In a way it portrays quite a lot of issues: money, identity, disability, ambition, family, conflict, addiction, etc., but there's almost so much going on that it all becomes too much. As my professor used to say about writing essays, "Don't go water-skiing, go deep-sea-diving." Meaning: Don't talk about every point you have under the sun and call it a day, pick a few and go deep.

That being said, 3-stars looks too poor for what is really a good novel. Some bits lost my interest and generally in the middle of the book I was wondering if it would ever pick up again. It did. Maybe if it was shorter it would be better? I don't know. Winton's prose is a reason to read though. There are funny bits, sad bits, creepy bits. It's a smorgasbord. I'll be reading more Winton though. Here's one of my favourite bits to finish, one of the said creepy bits.
In the dawn the sky was clearing and summery steam rose off the jetty piles, and out of the steam came the black man looking completely unsurprised.
Geez, said Quick, recognising him fearfully. Haven't you got a home to go to?
Not this side.
Quick looked across the river. Through the steam he thought he saw moving figures, dark outlines on the far bank.
Are you real?
The black fella laughed. Are you?
Quick kicked the muddy grass before him.
You've got a home to go to. Quick. Go there.
Quick regarded the man. He was naked, naked enough to arrest.
Go there.
Orright, said PC Quick, already on his way. When he turned back, high on the hill, he saw more than one black man. He saw dozens of them beneath the trees, hundreds like a necklace at the throat of the city.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,382 followers
Want to read
January 26, 2018
I may be worse on Australian lit than any other country on earth. I've read more books from Tajikistan than from Australia. I'll fix it eventually. This will help.
Profile Image for Libby.
581 reviews157 followers
August 18, 2018
In the circular movement of the Ouroboros, or the snake eating its tale, Tim Winton begins ‘Cloudstreet’ with the picnic scene that he also ends it with; the difference being in the knowledge the reader will gain of the picnickers, and that makes all the difference in the world. It’s the story of two families, the Lambs and the Pickles. Sam Pickles, believes in ‘the shifty shadow of God,’ the maker of good and bad luck. Even though Sam is a gambler and proficient at losing, he believes that when that shadow is moving, it’s best to cling to the bed and pull the covers up over your head, no matter what else is going on. Sam is married to Dolly, a beauty with a love for men and drink. Their daughter Rose has learned from her father about ‘the shifty shadow’ and she’ll learn a darker side of things from her mother for a long time until there’s a little light. She has two brothers Ted and Chub.

Lester and Oriel Lamb and family round out this cast of main characters. They will come to live in the other side of a house that Sam and Dolly inherit, a house on Cloudstreet in Perth. Bible believing folks, Lester and Oriel are the parents of a ‘mob’ of youngins, three boys, Mason (Quick), Samson (Fish), and Lon, and three girls, twins Hattie and Elaine and lastly, Red. The favorite of the whole family is Fish, who is a teaser, setting up people for the bad end of a joke, and being loved, not in spite of it, but because of it, his energy lighting up the whole family. He’s like the gold treasure of the entire family, and they need treasure because they’re really poor. Oriel is just as proud of her family as she can be and determined not to be unhappy, making do with whatever is at hand. It tickles her to death that when she sends the children to town with a little money, they come back with change because they watch outdoor movies from under the bushes. Fish will be changed after a near drowning, the spark of his light energy having left this world, and a kind of light will go out of the family too including the light of their faith.

‘Cloudstreet’ is suffused with magical realism. Winton uses it to great affect. Fish, left with a supernatural kind of energy, has the ability to see the shadows of ghosts in the house on Cloudstreet and an affinity for water, that takes on a deeper meaning of spirituality and mysticism. Quick, who has survivor’s guilt over his brother’s tragic accident, will miraculously pull in huge numbers of fish one night. An old Aboriginal black man will appear at times with messages for Quick Lamb and Sam Pickles. Part of the magic that Winton weaves is the transformation the reader watches take place in the characters. Fish is transformed in a way that brings the suffering of grief to the Lamb family. The suffering of loss is something that many can identify with, as well as the loss of faith. There is a profound transformation in the way that the Pickles and Lambs interact over the years that is the beating heart of this story; a story of family.

I want to channel the character of Oriel. She’s the organizing element in this story with as big a drive to have her family rise about circumstances as any character I’ve met in a while. She gives marching orders and the entire family strives to please her. Lester is quite an endearing fellow, loving to sing and to have fun, an opposite to Oriel to round out her sharp edges. Family is everything to Lester and Oriel. Oriel’s as different from Dolly Pickle as night is from day. Dolly lets drink take her over and has no organizing principle. Dolly is Rose’s school of hard knocks. While Sam watches the shadows to predict his luck, Oriel makes her own luck.

The landscape and setting of rivers and ocean come alive under Winton’s hand.

“The river was a broad, muttering, living thing always suggesting things that kept his mind busy. Every important thing that happened to him, it seemed, had to do with a river. It was insistent, quietly forceful like the force of his own blood: it roiled with life and living.”

Winton has a beautiful rhythmic prose that ebbs up and down as the story unfolds. He writes one of the most beautiful lovemaking scenes I think I’ve ever read, it seemed to flow so effortlessly into the story that it reminded me of the love poetry of the Persian poet, Rumi. I cannot recommend this book enough. It gives me a renewed appreciation (and hopefully energy) for family, and of course, for the inexplicably beautiful nature of language that Winton wielded so well to bring us the story of ‘Cloudstreet.’
Profile Image for Anne ✨ Finds Joy.
277 reviews66 followers
April 1, 2019
(4.5) A gritty family epic in post-war Perth, Australia during the 1940's-1960's. Tim Winton's writing is so unique. He is brilliant with his ability to take the story to depths and directions you wouldn't have thought possible. This story was a whole lot of everything: gritty, weird, raw, quick-witted, endearing. The cast of characters are not ones you'd imagine being drawn towards, but Winton almost dares you not to care about them! He gives you a whole lot of the 'weird/not so charming' to cast you off, but then he reels you back in with perfectly timed cleverly phrased sentiments! His books are definitely a unique reading experience. This one just missed 5* for me with the middle section lagging a bit, but I loved the beginning and ending sections.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews503 followers
March 6, 2016
First off, this is an incredibly hard book for me to rate and review. It started out so strong, I really loved everything about it and couldn't wait to get to know each of the characters in more detail. And there are quite a few characters. The Pickle family and the Lamb family. They come together in an unexpected way when the Pickles move into a large house called Cloudstreet thanks to an inheritance, and because they are poor, they take on the Lambs as tenants. The two families are rather dissimilar, except they both are experiencing hard times and, of course, have familial issues that threaten their existences in ways that many families experience in their lives.

It's billed as a family saga, and I agree with that. It certainly is. It spans about twenty years of the lives of the Pickles and the Lambs, and we get to know each of the family members fairly well, though I think some characters stand out more strongly than others. I felt close to Rose, for example, throughout the book, whereas others, such as Quick, didn't really feel like a whole person until later on in the book.

As I mentioned, the beginning started out strong for me, but by the middle of the book I found myself frustrated and not caring so much as to what was going on. Originally I liked how the story was told in bite-sized pieces which made it read quickly because you could pause easily wherever you wanted and pick it up and delve into another part of the story without really losing speed. By the middle of the book, however, I found it irritating and I wanted to spend more time with the characters, I wasn't making any connection to them anymore.

And then by the end of the novel as characters started coming back together in more ways than one, I found myself engrossed again and not wanting to put it down. It was a strange switch, and I couldn't tell you where in the story it started and stopped. But it was there, giving me trouble connecting with the story in an overall sense, even though I so much had wanted to when I started. It's that middle of the book - I'm side-eyeing it now. I can't really trust the middle of this book.

But this is still a story that will stick with me because it is powerfully written. Winton is a powerful writer if this is any true indication, and I will be reading more of his work to find out for sure how I feel about him. It's an Australian novel and it is Australian in prose (I swear this is a thing, I felt it with Patrick White as well), dialect, and slang. I loved that because it felt more authentic, even if I found myself chuckling at some of the words. Silly Aussies!

I love the little secrets of this novel, the way it gives voice to the disabled and the working class of mid-century Australia. I want to hug many of these characters, and throw things at some of the others. No one is all good and no one is all bad, which is really what life is about anyway. We have this idea of people, often the people in our own families, and we're not always right, our memories aren't always right, and our perceptions aren't always right. Winton really hit the nail on that particular head with this book.

Anyway, I liked the book but can't say I loved it. Like I said, it's hard to rate and review. I'm glad to have read it, but I'm not sure who to recommend it to because it's definitely not for everyone.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Alaska).
1,286 reviews421 followers
December 20, 2021
I loved the beginning. The two families are established and we understand how they come to live in the large house. And then I expected a bit more plot. While I was reading, I knew it was strange for me to be asking for more plot. I am a reader who demands good characterization and good writing while the element of plot comes in a distant third. But that is not to say that nothing happens in this novel. Rather than a plot that carries the novel from the beginning to a satisfactory conclusion, this is more a series of vignettes. Gosh, that's sort of like real life.

There are a lot of characters all of whom have a presence. However, only the 4 parents and the older children are fully developed. About 7 characters to get to know fairly well and this was definitely enough. The other children weren't so fully-fleshed, but that was OK.

It is the writing that makes this novel for me. The novel starts as if it is simply straight forward writing. It isn't something to rave about being so beautiful I'd swoon, but interesting enough. Then I started noticing what I wanted to call some sort of magical realism. I knew it wasn't really that, but I couldn't define it. Perhaps I should have been prepared for a sort of post modern, but I wasn't. I haven't read enough post modern to know if there are similarities between/among the authors defined as such. I'm not a reader who easily gravitates to that writing style. I'm not sure, however, that this novel could have been written any other way and still been a compellng read.

If that was all there is, it would still be pretty darned good, but it is more than that. Sometimes the characters are introspective, or full of memories as to what shaped them. Winton does this in such a way to have this reader doing the same looking inward and exploring her own memory. And then it simply prompts questions: what makes a family; is it OK for parents to have favorites and if so how does that affect the others; how does it work when a child has a favorite parent; why do some sibling bond and others don't?

I don't know how to place this among my 5-star reads. I know it isn't among my top ten. I also know it made me think and I will remember it for some time.
Profile Image for Janet Forster.
Author 3 books33 followers
February 3, 2016
It took me two years to get onto Cloudstreet. A friend gave it to me for my birthday, but the way the bookshelf bowed under the weight of it said I’d need passion and commitment to tackle it and for a long while the timing just wasn’t quite right!

But finally it’s done!! And I’m so glad I persevered. It took more than a few pages to get into it, although the brilliance of Tim Winton’s writing was evident immediately. If anyone can transport you back in time then he can. Reading Cloudstreet was a bit like stepping into an old sepia photo and then having it come to life all around you.

The book is a saga about two families, both struck by horrendous tragedies and accompanied by a range of personal demons, who move from country Oz into suburban Perth and into a house on Cloudstreet in the 1940s. We are slowly drawn into the complex web of stories which tie all of the characters together through the connection of family and home.

I found the characters sometimes hard to love, and on occasion I actively loathed them, but somehow they grew into me - sometimes a bit like an ingrown toenail! Still, it’s only through awesome writing that one becomes so emotionally invested in the characters that you actually ache with their pain.

Don’t read this book expecting anything idealised. This is grim reality, but it is also surprisingly uplifting and meaningful with strong underlying messages of loyalty and acceptance of each other, no matter what has gone before or how different we are.
Profile Image for Issicratea.
213 reviews364 followers
April 29, 2018
Tim Winton’s 1991 novel Cloudstreet seems to have an extraordinary reputation in Australia. It has been adapted for television, theatre, and opera, and it is a staple of Australian high school literature curricula. Its Wikipedia entry lists four polls between 2003 and 2012 in which it was voted the nation’s favourite Australian novel. I felt rather sheepish when I came across it recently; I hadn’t heard of it, or Tim Winton, before.

It’s an impressive piece of work, and I can see why people love it. Cloudstreet is a family saga, set in a rickety old house in Perth, inhabited by two working-class families, the Lambs and the Pickles (“sounds like a counter lunch” is the comment of one of the fathers when the cohabitation begins). The families are contrasted in temperament, with the hard-working Lambs, dragooned into thrift by their dour matriarch Oriel, offset by their loucher landlords, the Pickles, headed by gambler Sam and toper Dolly. The novel steams along merrily, dividing its interest among the Lamb and Pickles couples and the nine children they can muster between them, with Pickles daughter Rose and Lamb sons Quick and Fish (Mason and Samson) emerging as the most prominent of the next generation.

What makes the book work is the quality of the writing. There’s quite a bit in the narrative that doesn’t really appeal to me. Winton seems a little too much in love with his characters towards the end, and the novel doesn’t escape a certain sentimentality (which is a failing in my book, as I’m a miserable old soul). There’s a smidgen of nineties-fashionable magic realism lurking around in corners of the narrative, which can make it feel a little dated; and the attempts to give a place in the novel to indigenous Australians, though well-meaning, can seem rather perfunctory and crude.

The writing is just great, however: immensely vivacious and inventive and achieving its effects with great sprezzatura. I read it after Samantha Harvey’s The Western Wind, which is also well written, but in a way that feels more contrived and studied. Winton manages to give the impression that he is simply rattling away. Philip Henscher, in his warmly appreciative introduction to the Picador Classics edition, speaks of Winton’s writing ‘blending the exactness of poetry with the vividness of slang’ and I think that captures the effect of it well. Here’s a fishing scene as a sample (I have a sense that Tim Winton likes his fishing):

… when he saw the upward charge of the mob he felt something was happening that he might not be able to explain to a stranger. He dragged in four fish, two hooked and two biting their tails. He caught them cast after cast, sometimes three to a hook … Now the boat vibrated like a cathedral with all these fish arching, beating, sliding, bucking, hammering.

Here is Oriel Lamb settling down in her tent in the back yard (don’t ask!)

She took to leaving a lit candle by her bed. It stood in a saucer in the old family Bible, its flame curtseying before the draughts. Thundery showers peppered the tentfly and above it, the mulberry shook itself like a wet dog.

Another interesting paratext in the Picador Classics edition is an afterword by Winton himself, reflecting on the genesis of the book a couple of decades after writing it. He has some interesting reflections on place and on buildings and streetscapes as repositories of collective memory, and he talks about Perth’s relentless demolition and reconstruction of its built heritage (‘this once-distinctive city has devolved into a bland outpost of gimcrack knockoffs and in-built obsolescence’). I liked the idea of the novel as an act of topographical pietas, an attempt to conjure the vanished Perth that Winton’s parents and grandparents knew. Certainly, the creaking, breathing, semi-haunted old house where the Lambs and Pickles live out their boisterous, squabbling lives, is a character as powerful as any in the book.

Profile Image for Lisa.
396 reviews53 followers
July 25, 2022
Cloudstreet is a sweeping Australian tale set from 1943 to 1963. It is the tale of two families, the Pickles and the Lambs (Yes, Winton has a sense of humor which shines in parts of the book.) who are very different on the surface and yet have a lot in common--both families leave rural areas for the city following accidents involving the water, both are family-centric, and both are at the periphery of society.

" So . . . what do you live for?"

"The family. . . . Take away the family and that's it, there's no point."

I was raised in a culture of family first. If you can do anything for a family member you do. It's safe to reach out to anyone to ask for what you need; you'll only be denied if some one really doesn't have what you are asking for. And since there are so many of us, you are virtually guaranteed of support. Our children don't have the same tribe. Their generation is so much smaller and much more scattered. My parent's families lived within walking distance of one another. Growing up, I lived just a bike ride away from my cousins. Our daughters' cousins are scattered from NY to CA (we are in MD). We have tried to compensate by establishing a family of friends to fill this gap. We are close, and it's not quite the same.

Each of Winton's characters carries his own story and they are revealed one by one as the narrative progresses. Winton weaves these threads together conveying that all the Lambs and the Pickles (and us) are linked together.

"Rose was glad of those talks with her mother. She found soft parts still left in herself, soft parts in Dolly as well, and in a way she figured it saved her from herself. It was love really, finding some love left. It was like tonic."

This novel shows people's search for connection with family. It also is a celebration of community.

“Will you look at us by the river! The whole restless mob of us on spread blankets in the dreamy briny sunshine skylarking and chiacking about for one day, one clear, clean, sweet day in a good world in the midst of our living. Yachts run before an unfelt gust with bagnecked pelicans riding above them, the city their twitching backdrop, all blocks and points of mirror light down to the water's edge.”

I enjoyed learning some Aussie slang; I kept the Aussie slang dictionary open while reading. I do love new words.

Winton's prose can be magic.And his love for the land (and water) is evident in his writing.

The river was broad and silvertopped and he knew its topography well enough to be out at night, though the old girl would have had a seizure at the thought. He never got bored with landmarks, the swirls of tideturned sand, armadas of jellyfish, the smell of barnacles and week, the way the pelicans baulked and hovered like great baggy clowns. He liked to hear the skip of prawns and the way a confused school of mullet bucked and turned in a mob. From the river you could be in the city but not on or of it.

Winton's skillful use of the river and the house on Cloudstreet as well as his sprinkle of magical realism contribute to his overall themes.

There is so much in this novel to think and talk about. I'm going to stop here before you stop reading.

Read the book and see for yourself how the Pickles and Lambs work through their trials and heartaches and joys to change and grow, to find themselves and each other.

"Life was something you didn't argue with, because when it came down to it, . . . life was all there was. And death."

And a shout out to my GR friend Justin who gave this book 5 stars which prompted me to read it.
Profile Image for notgettingenough .
1,026 reviews1,182 followers
September 9, 2015
I thank heavens I didn't give up on this one, having started it a couple of years ago and let it drift onto some nominal pile of 'not sure why I've put this down' books. Last week it got its second chance when I took it to Berlin figuring it would either get read, or get left. In fact my nose was scarcely out of it.

It's a stunning achievement, Australian through and through, but utterly universal in its themes: at the risk of this being a spoiler, it is about the journey to understanding there is not us and them, only us. The book's 25 years old - there is probably a generation of people who could learn something for our time by reading it.

Rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpre...
Profile Image for Claire Fuller.
Author 13 books2,038 followers
May 4, 2020
I know there's a lot of love for this book and aspects of the writing were tremendous. The way Winton creates new and resonant words, and wonderful rhythms: 'a booklumpy bag', 'the immodest backs of the oilslicked women', 'the sky was the colour of kerosene' - it sometimes reminded me of Under Milk Wood. But, you know when an author over-uses a word and then you can't stop seeing it. In this book Winton loves 'mob'. It's used about every five pages and it got so I was looking out for it. But that's a silly thing; something that should have been caught in the copy editing. My bigger problem was the story. Two large families come together and live in a ramshackle house in Perth, and we see them grow up and older over the space of twenty years. Winton clearly, deliberately writes the novel in a kind of ramshackle, crazy way: flitting from one character to the next, not often stopping to rest or let me catch breath, and I simply didn't enjoy this. It meant that many of the characters (Hat, Red, Lon etc) were shadowy - not fully developed, and I didn't really care about any of them. It begins to settle onto Rose's and Quick's story as the book progresses, but this happened too late for me to worry about their fate.

And one more thing... I get highly irritated by writers / screenwriters who name genital anatomy incorrectly. Winton - sorry to have to tell you, but it's not possible to see the notch in the top of someone's vagina. You wouldn't mistake a penis for a testicle. Please get it right.
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