Saturday, December 11, 2010

Breathless or Emotionless?

by Tim Winton

"More than once since then I've wondered whether the life-threatening high jinks that Loonie and I and Sando and Eva got up to in the years of my adolescence were anything more that a rebellion against the monotony of drawing breath."

Genre; Fiction/Drama
Publisher; Hamish Hamilton/Penguin/Australia/2008
Pages; 216
ISBN; 978-0-241-01530-8

Plot; Bruce Pike, Pikelet, is a young boy, in a small town on the western coast of Australia.

Life has been ordinary for Pikelet and his best mate Loonie, until they discover the adrenaline boost of the white, bubbling, swelling surf. It is under the experienced and fearless tutelage of surfing notable, Sando, that they come to explore a new side of life. An exciting side of life.

Years come and go as these two young boys learn to take more and more risks, forcing themselves and each other to push the boundaries further and further.

But, just as there is to any wave, there is a breaking point.

My Thoughts; This is the book for my book club next month. It was decided weeks ago to read this book, but at our last meeting one of our newest members expressed some very strong opinions.

The term which instantly springs to mind, which she used, is "foul". With this opinion most of the other club members were put off from reading it, but it was this strong reaction which immediately made me what to devour it. I wanted to know what could possibly be in this book to cause such a strong reaction in a reader.

The clubber who referred to this book as "foul" also said that it is a book about selfishness, which is in many ways true. Other reviews and discussions also describe Breath as a book about selfishness and the insatiable need for an adrenaline rush that the characters crave.

For me this is a book about depression. My understanding of depression is that it doesn't leave the sufferer feeling neither sad, nor happy, but it is a lack of emotion. The loss of emotion and want of feeling.

For me the characters of Breath are a bunch of depressives who need to push themselves and take risks, not for the fun of it, but for the sheer need of feeling.

Which makes it interesting that this book, with all its risk taking and near misses, left me with a want of feeling. As I read the final page I wasn't happy, I wasn't sad, I wasn't even mad... As I read that final page, all I could think was, "Oh, is that it?"

I don't know whether it was the "foul" build up, or whether I would have felt the same having heard no reviews before attempting it, but I was left feeling.. well, really, NOT feeling.

This is strange because it has all the makings of an emotive read- death, sex, fear, suspense.

I think I look at Breath and see the waste of it. The waste of life, the waste of possibilities, the waste of talent. It isn't that the book is a waste, but the characters are a waste, the choices they make are a waste.

Maybe this is the point of the book. To leave the reader with the emotionlessness of the characters, even after they have pushed themselves and pushed those boundaries.

I am a Tim Winton fan, those of you who have read my other Winton reviews will know I rate them highly, but with this book I am stuck. I don't know how to recommend it.

I can't say it is one to walk past, because I know that at my book club it will make for great discussion, but I can't say it is a "must read" either.

To me this is the kind of book you need to read with other people. I think that with discussion you can appreciate this book, and it will make for great debate as everyone will view it differently.

Happy Reading!


  1. I agree with you Nicole, it was a bit upsetting and hard to describe. You know, it's odd that in hindsight it really could be a story about abuse, but since it's a teenage boy's dream it doesn't come off as obvious and offensive if it had been reversed.
    It's my least favorite Winton by far.

  2. I would have to agree; this isn't one of my favourite Wintons.

    You don't pick up a Winton looking for pretty story, he is known for being able to beautifully describe the uglier facets of life, but this book is lacking likability in almost all respects.

    If someone hasn't read Winton before, don't start with this, it will put you off.