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Tim Winton’s “Breath”


I have just finished reading “Breath” by Tim Winton and while the impressions are still fresh, I thought I’d write about it.

The book can best be described in one word: intense. The characters are intense and the reading experience certainly is, too. You will find yourself hyperventilation with the characters while they are caught tumbling through an unrelenting sea and you will start anticipating their successes as well as their failures.

“How strange it was to see men do something beautiful. Something pointless and elegant, as though nobody saw or cared.”

If you don’t like surfing, then you will probably not like this book. Planning routes, the anticipation of waiting for the perfect wave and the shop talk involved in choosing the right board are all an important part of this book and for understanding the inner workings of the characters involved.

“Even now, nearly forty years later, every time I see a kid pop to her feet, arms flailing, all milk-teeth and shining skin, I’m there; I know her, and some spark of early promise returns to me like a moment of grace.”

However, even if you don’t like surfing, but have an intense passion for a certain sport or person, that borders on the extreme, you might find yourself understanding where the four main characters are coming from.

The book is told from the point of view of “Pikelet”, aka Bruce Pike, an Australian teenager who grows up in a small town. We later learn that he is a divorced paramedic and the entire story of the book is told in retrospect. The closer you get to the end of the book, the more he recapitulates his life and draws lessons from the events that have shaped his character.

“It’s funny, but you never really think much about breathing. Until it’s all you ever think about”

His friend and surf buddy is Ivan “Loonie” Loon who he meets at the river while Loonie is playing tricks with a couple of young women. The two boys are passionate about water and while out surfing, they soon meet Sando, a professional surfer, and his wife Eva. The boys start adoring the older and more experienced surfer while his wife disapproves of the unlikely match.

The four characters are all intense, addictive personalities that feed off each other while, at times, also hating each other. While all four are problematic and, on the face of it, unlikeable characters, the readers gets drawn into their world which makes for a captivating and  intense reading experience.

If you like surfing, Australia and an intense read, then this is certainly the book for you.