Eyrie - Book of the Month
by Tim Winton
Tom Keeley is a mess. Divorced, unemployed, dependent on drink, sleeping pills and over the counter analgesics, he stumbles from one day to the next in a fug of hallucinations, blackouts and painful memories. He looks down on the town of Freemantle from his home in the Mirador, a tower block apartment "a classic shitbox: beige bricks, raw concrete galleries, iron bar railings, doors and windows like prison slots" confident that if anyone were looking for an environmental activist like him it wouldn’t be here – and that’s exactly how he wants it. Then Gemma Buck appears.
Gemma is also struggling with life, but she has the added responsibility of caring for her young charge, Kai. When they meet by chance on the stairs of the Mirador, Gemma recognises Keeley as the son of Neville and Doris, caring neighbours from her childhood, who looked out for her and her siblings when things got rough at home.
Gemma’s life is tough but she’s a gutsy woman, holding down a night job while looking after Kai. Despite his resolve to keep a solitary existence, Keeley is drawn to Gemma and he’s uncomfortable that the boy is alone all night. He has hallucinations and dreams about him falling from the tower block so, with trepidation, he offers to help. They get into a tangled, messy relationship, then Gemma’s situation takes a turn for the worse. Keeley asks Doris if she can help and she, remembering Gemma from earlier days, of course agrees. Doris is sceptical: is Gemma really a victim or is she manipulating her highly vulnerable son?
The tower block setting may not be classic Winton as he leaves behind the ocean, dust, heat and dirt of his beloved rural Australia, but all the other Winton trademarks remain: the language, that wonderful mixture of sometimes-elegiac prose and Ozzie argot; the pathos of the soul-searching individual; the moments of black humour; and he just can’t resist letting Keeley have a swim or two in the ocean!
Published by Picador – 424pp
Read our 2008 interview with Tim Winton.
Hear The Bookshop Band's song based on EYRIE.