Tim Winton - Breath (3 stars)

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Tim Winton - Breath

(Picador)

TEENAGER STORY

Tim Winton’s first novel for seven years is ostensibly a coming of age story which follows Bruce Pike (‘Pikelet’) from naïve and wild adolescence into emotionally maimed adulthood. Most of the time, however, Breath reads like a hymn to the sea with its rough moods and awesome beauty. Pikelet, a small town boy, throws himself into surfing as ‘a rebellion against the monotony of drawing breath’. Accompanied by an appropriately named mate Loonie and a secretive ex-surf champion called Sando, they seek even greater thrills.

Twenty-foot walls of water and man-eating sharks exude an irresistible appeal, but these are not the only dangers for an immature adolescent: love, loss and the everyday slog of survival all take their toll. The story of Pikelet’s maturity frames the story of youthful excess. Perhaps inevitably, it can feel flat by comparison; the sea, as much as poor Pikelet, is the main character of this novel.

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