Island Home

Tim Winton

Island Home
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Island Home

Tim Winton

The natural world, in Tim Winton’s novels, is as much a living presence as any character, and what is true of his work is true of his life. From boyhood, his relationship with sea, scrub and swamp has been as vital as blood relations. The country has seeped into him, with its rhythms, its dangers, its strange sustenance.

This is the story of how that relationship came to be, and also a passionate exhortation for all of us to feel the ground beneath our feet. Much more so than any political idea, the physical entity of Australia defines us, in ways we too often forget.

Wise, rhapsodic, exalted, Island Home is a beautiful, evocative, sometimes provocative, investigation of how the land makes us who we are.

Review

This book reveals two Tim Wintons. There is the wordsmith we feel we already know well through his renowned and evocative fiction, but this book also reveals a person who thinks very deeply about his, and our, relationship with the land. In a series of essays, most of them never published before, Winton muses on nature, on faith, on war and on identity.

The son of a copper, Winton grew up on the outskirts of Perth. At the end of his street was a swamp, ‘a great wild nether-land that drew everything down to it eventually: water, birds, frogs, snakes – and kids of course.’ When he was about 12 he moved to Albany and grew up exploring, surfing and experiencing the wildly beautiful coast and bush areas that have been immortalised in his books.

Although Winton was aware of being vaguely attached to this country, it wasn’t until he spent an extended period living overseas that he began to think deeply about that relationship: ‘My physical response to new places unsettled me.’ In that European landscape he felt a complete stranger, ‘but acknowledging my strangeness made those years abroad easier to digest and enjoy.’

There’s anger in this book, anger at the ill-considered use of the land. To Winton, business leaders ‘seem content to bulldoze beauty and replace it with crap.’ Although essentially a very private person, Winton has been drawn to campaigns to save our natural heritage, most famously becoming the public face for the campaign to save Ningaloo Reef from inappropriate development; to Winton’s surprise and pleasure, the Ningaloo campaign was successful.

Winton comes from a devout religious family and his chapter on the meaning of the scared, ‘Paying Respect’, should be compulsory reading for every Australian; it will change the way you think about a lot of things. In Island Home, we see a Winton passionate about this land and with many profound things to say about it – be ready to be challenged, fascinated and enthralled.


Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings.

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