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The Turning

by Tim Winton

This collection of seventeen short stories had me mesmerised from the start. In his masterful way Tim Winton had me gripped by the end of the first story. Then I realised as I read on that there’s was a link, then another and by now I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.

The stories are about small-town life in western Australia concerning ordinary people experiencing turning points in their lives – whether they realise it or not. The first, Big World, is about two young guys just graduated from high school but who flunked getting into university. Realising that after a series of horrible summer jobs that this is their future they just take off in their precious newly acquired VW “kombi” and take a road trip, which becomes a revelation about friendship and trust. The language - a wonderful mixture of sometimes-elegiac prose and Ozzie argot - sets the tone for the whole book:
“We get out into the rolling pasture and granite country and then wheat-lands where the ground is torn up in the hope of rain. The VW shakes like a boiling billy and we’ve finally woken up to ourselves and sheepishly dragged our beanies off. The windows are down and the hot wind rips through our hair.”

My personal favourite (though I loved them all) is The Turning, an achingly sad story about a young working-class, unfulfilled, woman, abused by her fishing boat skipper husband and living in a trailer with him and their two small daughters. A chance meeting with a more prosperous couple awakens her to other possibilities and perhaps a way out of her desperate situation.

It’s not only his wonderfully real and believable characters that make this (and all of Winton’s books) so readable. It is also his evocative descriptions of the landscape of western Australia that really take you there and you understand how the lives of the people are inextricably linked to their geography.

Short stories are not always the first choice for reading groups but this is a truly brilliant collection – try it!

Awards for THE TURNING

2005 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
Nielsen Book Data 2004 Booksellers' Choice Award
2005 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award (shortlisted – result 25th September)
Shortlisted for the 2004 WA Premier's Award for Fiction.
Queensland Premier's Literary Awards (nominated for Best Fiction Book – result 28th September).

Read our 2008 interview with Tim Winton.


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