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The Turning

Tim Winton

" Raelene hit the van so hard it felt as though her eyeballs would spurt from their sockets. Her arms flailed above her as he slammed her back again and again. She felt the door edge, the hinge or something gouge her, couldn’t get her hands to his stubbly face. She was powerless but for the smile that stung her mouth, sharp as a split lip."

Reviewed by James Smith

Parched, arid and dusty lives, mirrored in the unremittingly harsh landscape of Australia, have become the stock-in-trade of Tim Winton. His previous book, the novel Dirt Music, explored the growing closeness between two lonely people adrift in the harsh environment of a Western Australian fishing community. Reading it was a bit like staring at the sun: dazzling, beautiful, painful. 

In The Turning, a collection of overlapping stories set mainly in one town, Winton again gives us fractured lives, drifting relationships, and several shades of the violence that can erupt from the bitterness of failure. 

There are many turnings here - adolescent sexual awakening and rebellion, revenge, death, the return of a past lover under very different circumstances - but the overall theme of these stories is the way (so-called) ordinary people struggle daily under the weight of expectation and regret. 

If this sounds gloomy (the title story is particularly harrowing in its portrayal of casual and spiteful domestic violence), don’t be put off; Winton’s spare and emotive writing about the way human beings survive in spite of each other is extraordinary. 

Twice nominated for the Booker Prize, Winton somehow writes bigger novels than his contemporaries, even though his themes of love, loss and the brutality of life are common to them all. Maybe that’s because Australia has a way of dwarving its inhabitants. Or maybe he’s just a great writer. Or both. 

(This review first appeared in Story)

 James Smith worked as a bookseller for ten years before moving to Booktrust, an independent national charity that encourages people of all ages and cultures to enjoy reading. He edits the Booktrust website as well as the Story site and one dedicated to books about London (www.getlondonreading.com). He is currently working on a website to promote translated fiction in the UK.



Publication Date:April 2006

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?No

Author bio: Tim Winton was born in Perth in 1960. He is the author of many books, including novels, two collections of stories (Minimum of Two and The Turning), non-fiction and books for children. His first novel, An Open Swimmer, won the Australian /Vogel Award. Cloudstreet won the Banjo Award and the Miles Franklin Award in Australia and the Deo Gloria Prize in England, and has been successfully adapted for the theatre. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice, for The Riders (1995) and Dirt Music (2002). His most recent book, Breath, will be published in May 2008.

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