Breath was the first title chosen for the book club I have just joined, and is probably an apt choice for our first book given Winton’s status amongst Australian authors. I can confidently say he is not really my cup of tea. Although, I did find Cloudstreet kind of brilliant and do enjoy many of his short stories. The Riders was completely over-rated and so probably, is this.
Breath is about Bruce Pike, an paramedic who encounters a case that inspires him to reflect upon the reckless years he spent as a teenager with his fearless friend Loom, his surfing guru Sando and his difficult wife Eva. Each of them were testing themselves and going beyond the boundaries of what their fear told them was enough. For a while it makes ‘Pikelet’ feel alive, although the endless experimentation of the other characters eventually becomes too much for him. It is a feeling that stays with him for the rest of his life.
The book sets itself up to be circular in structure, but never really goes back to the initial point of the narration. This has to be a flaw – and a somewhat unsatisfying one. Again like much of Winton’s work, I find his character portrayals sketchy. As if his writing reflects that lack of self-analysis so often found in Aussie Blokes. It is a great quality for a short story writing, but dissatisfying in a novel.
It takes an odd little turn at the end – not completely unexpected but still strange. Let me know if it surprises you.