Cheyenne Blue's Reviews > Breath

Breath by Tim Winton
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it was amazing
bookshelves: australian, books-i-wish-i-d-written, literary-fiction

I tell people that Tim Winton is my favorite author, and “Breath” is my favorite Tim Winton novel. It’s the one that sticks in my head with its elegant Aussie prose. There are sentences in “Breath” that have stuck in my head for years. Yes, “Cloudstreet” is iconic, and “Dirt Music” is a song of beauty, but “Breath” is the one that I remember with the most appreciation, awe, and love.

So why did I only give it 4 stars the first time around? I have no idea, quite honestly, so when my partner finally released it (slow reader… it took six months), I thought I’d have a re-read before passing “Breath” to its forever home.

“Breath” is the story of Pikelet and Loonie, teenage boys growing up in a tiny fishing village in Western Australia in the 1970s. They learn to surf and fall into a friendship with the older Sando, and his wife Eva. Sando is an ex pro-surfer and constant adrenaline junkie, and he leads the boys to try bigger waves, more dangerous breaks, to challenge themselves in so many ways. There’s descriptions of reefs, and breaks, and water, and surfing alongside Barney, the great white shark, who “surfaces like a sub” alongside Loonie and fixes him with his black, empty eye “like a hole in the fucking universe.”

The book opens with the now adult Pikelet, a paramedic, attending a call to a teen who has died by autoerotic asphyxiation. This is the start of the book’s theme of the air in our lungs, and out of it, not enough air, and being taken to the edge of something wonderful and shattering.

“Breath” is a song of the sea, and the glory and pain it brings. Winton writes about the sea in the intimate way one writes about a lover. The descriptions are beautiful, not in a romantic sunset-on-waves type of way, but in a tough and muscular way. He doesn’t talk about frolicking in the surf, he talks about the breathlessness that comes from a hold down to the point of blackout after a fall from a wave the size of a house.

But it wouldn’t be a Tim Winton novel unless there was more, a dark underlay to his words. “Breath” is also the story of relationships: between Pikelet and Loonie, Pikelet and Sando, Loonie and Sando, Sando and Eva and Pikelet and Eva. Winton draws these in the sparsest of words, but they are the clearest of words, needle sharp, precise prose. The book gradually circles back to the opening, and dumps you gasping on the shore like a stranded trevally.

I would recommend this book to almost anyone. Anyone, that is, who likes words and how they fall on the page, who is Australian, or wants to understand the Aussie obsession with the coast, who loves the sea, who understands the physicality of our bodies, the frailty of our bodies, the physicality and frailty of relationships, the darkness and layers of relationships, friendship, love, pain, glory, guts.

Stop reading this. Go and read “Breath”.
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Reading Progress

March 25, 2012 – Shelved
April 7, 2012 – Shelved as: australian
May 2, 2014 – Started Reading
May 2, 2014 –
page 30
13.76% "I've read this before, but I'm re-reading before this paperback is passed on with love to its new home. And because anything by Tim Winton is always worth a reread."
May 13, 2014 –
page 97
May 22, 2014 – Shelved as: books-i-wish-i-d-written
May 22, 2014 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
May 22, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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Judy Yes please

Cheyenne Blue You're the forever home. :) It's here, waiting for you.

Brooke Carter Great review! I couldn't put into words what I love about book, but you have managed to!

Brooke Carter Great review! I couldn't put into words what I love about book, but you have managed to!

Cheyenne Blue Brooke wrote: "Great review! I couldn't put into words what I love about book, but you have managed to!"

Thanks, Brooke. :)

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