Twelve years ago, I was living and working in Australia as part of the 18-month period I spent travelling around the world (it seems soooo long ago now...). My diary from 12 years ago to this day reads like this:
Today. Gawd! Up at 5.15, aarrgh! Nightmare or what. Slept really badly due to the nutter’s midnight prowls. Picked up at 6am, worked an 11-hour day. Never worked so hard in my life. Knackering. Everyone is okay except this woman Ann who plays her shite CDs all day. Today me and Erika washed and sorted ONE THOUSAND banana bags. Arrrrr, shite or what?...
Oooh yes, that was awful. Working on a banana farm in Innisfail, Queensland. Luckily after a few weeks of that, I’d saved enough dollars to move on and was in gorgeous koala-tastic Magnetic Island, where I got a job painting the men’s toilets in the backpackers’ hostel where I was staying, before being promoted to the dizzy heights of – gasp! – kitchen assistant to the most miserable chef in the southern hemisphere.
Anyway, amidst all that glamour, I was trying to read as many Australian authors as possible although being a skint traveller I was reduced to swapping books and getting them from second-hand places, so it was pot luck. But in between painting toilets on Magnetic Island, I discovered Tim Winton. AHHHH! I have a really clear memory of lying in bright Aussie sunshine, stinking of turps, feeling a bit fuzzy from too much VB or whatever it was the night before, reading Cloudstreet and just feeling blown away by it. Oooooh. Just so fantastic.
So imagine how chuffed I was to win a competition on the Picador blog a few weeks ago, where the prize was an early proof of TW’s new book, Breath. I finished it the other week and it really made me feel as if I was back there – the sound of the ocean, the karri trees and peppermint scrub, the houses on stilts, the wildness and loneliness of rural Australia… I love the way he writes – so sensual, so physical, such powerfully atmospheric scenes. The story is about Bruce, a boy who’s always felt an outsider, his friendship with Loonie (another outsider), and their love of surfing. All innocence at first, but then they become involved with an older couple, Sando and Eva, and gradually things becomes darker and more intense between them all.
Reading the story is rather like being gathered up in a huge wave, if that isn’t too obvious a metaphor. You know it’s going to break at some point and are hanging on, waiting to see how hard the crash will be…and whether there will be any survivors to tell the tale…
Anyway, it’s out in a week or so, I think. Totally recommend it.
And hello everyone, by the way! It's nice to be back.
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21 hours ago