The shepherd’s hut by Tim Winton (Picador)

shepherds hut

“When I hit the bitumen and get that smooth grey rumble going under me everything’s hell different”

THERE is a sticker on my edition proclaiming that this has been a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, which is a bit odd, Winton being more of a pirate radio of a writer and I am not so sure this is really late night reading unless you like the feeling of hunkering down by the salt lakes. One of Winton’s strengths is opening up the western Australian outback and in a sense this is an Aussie western complete with metaphysical Christian allegorical finale. The first part is told in a series of violent flashbacks, the second part we are on the run through the salmon gums. And like in a western it has an easy going, bad arse first person narrative. On the surface nothing much is happening only go a little deeper and there is a psychological purging afoot. All good movie materials with tough-as-boots characters central to which is teenage Jaxie Clackton, butcher’s boy, abused, delinquent, feral, on the run, in the wild, a lost soul facing up to his own demons and staring down those in the bush. All for the love of Lee who is a character and half herself. The openings of each chapterette give a feel for the pace and style:

“The day the old life ended…

”Being a cheap bastard is what killed him…

“First two days I stayed right away from the highway”.

His prose is like a prize fighter with short jabs moving around the plot, ducking and diving through a bunch of memories and a faint glint of glory ahead. Jaxie joins a short, estimable literary list of tearway teens as defined by Holden Caulfield in Jerome David Salinger’s in Catcher in the Rye, although he is a lot more punk than the country rock band feel of the last book of Winton’s I reviewed in Dirt Music which has a different feel of another kind of journey…


About drewsmith28

Words, words, words...
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