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Breath by Tim Winton
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Breath

by Tim Winton

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Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’ is like a long wave slowly building up, then breaking and crashing down to cause chaos in it's wake. It is the story of two adolescent surfers who are taken in tow by a veteran surfer and gradually introduced to extreme surfing and the way in which this eventually damages and shapes their future lives.

Pikelet (Bruce Pike) and Loonie (Ivan Loon) are both lonely misfits in a small timber town near the coast who befriend each other one summer swimming at the river and dare each other to more and more extreme exploits. When they ride to the coast on their bikes and see the local lads surfing they know they have to give it a try. Before long they draw the attention of Sando (Bill Sanderson) a veteran surfer who takes them under his wing and encourages them to try more and more extreme surf. It’s the 70s and Sando and his American wife Eva are living a hippy lifestyle in a house set in the bush where Eva is also trying to overcome her own demons.

This story is many things. It is a coming of age story for Pikelet and Loonie as they move through adolescence. It is also about the attraction of extreme sport, the addiction to the endorphin and adrenalin rush that is hard to satisfy away from the sport and it is about the dangers of idolizing those who seem adventurous and attractive to us. It also touches on how deviant sexual practices can warp a teenage boy’s sexual awakening affecting his later life and relationships.

Although I grew up in WA and had several surfie friends, I have never been keen to try surfing but found myself enjoying Tim Winton’s descriptions of how to forecast when the surf would be good, how to pick the best position for catching a wave and the exhilaration to be had riding the wave. ( )
  cscott | Mar 30, 2014 |
Brilliant coming-of-age story about a trio of Australian surfers - two boys and their mentor, and the mentor's mysterious wife.
The narrator is 10 years old when he first sees surfers at the ocean:
“I couldn’t have put words to it as a boy, but later I understood what seized my imagination that day. How strange it was to see men do something beautiful. Something pointless and elegant, as though nobody saw or cared. In Sawyer [his home-town], a town of millers and loggers and dairy farmers, with one butcher and a rep from the rural bank beside the BP, men did solid, practical things, mostly with their hands. Perhaps a baker might have had a chance to make something as pretty as it was tasty, but our baker was a woman anyway, a person as dour and blunt as any boy’s father and she baked loaves like housebricks. For style we had a couple local footballers with a nice leap and a tidy torpedo punt, and I would concede that my father rowed a wooden boat as sweetly as I’d seen it done, in a manner that disguised and discounted all effort, but apart from that and those old coves with plastic teeth and necks like turtles who got pissed on Anzac Day and sang sad songs on the verandah of the Riverside before they passed out, there wasn’t much room for beauty in the lives of our men. The only exception was the strange Uri Orlov who carved lovely, old-world toys from stuff he fossicked up from the forest floor. But he didn’t like to show his work. He was shy or careful and people said he was half mad anyway. When it came to blokes, his was all the useless beauty the town could manage.
“For all those years when Loonie [his best friend] and I surfed together, having caught the bug that first morning at the Point, we never spoke about the business of beauty. We were mates but there were places our conversation simply couldn’t go. There was never any doubt about the primary thrill of surfing, the huge body-rush we got flying down the line with the wind in our ears. We didn’t know what endorphins were but we quickly understood how narcotic the feeling was, and how addictive it became; from day one I was stoned from just watching. We talked about skill and courage and luck - we shared all that, and in time we surfed to fool with death - but for me there was still the outlaw feeling of doing something graceful, as if dancing on water was the best and bravest thing a man could do.” pp. 23-4
  maryoverton | Aug 10, 2013 |
The first three quarters of this book was amazing - such detail of surfing and boy activity and relationships. Like so many of these sort of books the parents are either extremely intrusive - such as Loonie's Dad - or just there making sure the daily things happen - such as Pikelet's parents. Not really sure why the last quarter had to go the way it did or why Pikelet lacked the resilience to get on with his life when he was able to tackle those waves. So although the writing was beautiful it just didn't work at the end for me. ( )
  csemortimer | Jul 8, 2013 |
The first half of this novel was devoted primarily to surfing. As a non-surfer not much of that made an impression on me. The remainder of the novel got into the meat of the "coming of age" story. I understood the impact that Eva had on Pikelet, but didn't quite see how her death lead to his falling apart in later years, when he had a wife and children of his own and hadn't seen or heard from Eva since he was a teenager. Just didn't quite make sense in my opinion. ( )
  ABShepherd | May 15, 2013 |
I loved this book. The surfing, the coming of age, the times of freedom. This just spoke to me. Pikelet is the perfect antagonist and Tim Winton is so lyrical. When he describes moments in the surf my whole body just responded with a deep feeling of I know that I just didn't have the words for it - Thank goodness Tim Winton does. ( )
  jodes101 | May 9, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374116342, Hardcover)

Tim Winton is Australia’s best-loved novelist. His new work,Breath, is an extraordinary evocation of an adolescence spent resisting complacency, testing one’s limits against nature, finding like-minded souls, and discovering just how far one breath will take you. It’s a story of extremes—extreme sports and extreme emotions.
 
On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrillseeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. Together they form an odd but elite trio. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan ethos, a regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. But where is all this heading? Why is their mentor’s past such forbidden territory? And what can explain his American wife’s peculiar behavior? Venturing beyond all limits—in relationships, in physical challenge, and in sexual behavior—there is a point where oblivion is the only outcome. Full of Winton’s lyrical genius for conveying physical sensation, Breath is a rich and atmospheric coming-of-age tale from one of world literature’s finest storytellers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:53 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Falling under the spell of an enigmatic extreme-sports surfer, a thrill-seeking pair of western Australian adolescents is initiated into a world of high-stakes adventures and dangerous boundary testing.

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0241015308, 0143009583

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