four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
By: 
Tim Winton
user_rating: 
0

New Stories

A-TurningWintonSet in western Australia 30 years ago, most of them in a working-class town called Angelus, these 17 stories feature turning points in people’s lives. The characters are charming despite—or maybe because—they are a tad rough around the edges. Though The Turning isn’t exactly a cycle of linked stories, many of the characters do reappear as readers enter the sharp, sometimes painful dynamics of their families. In "Big World," a narrator’s fantasies about escaping his hometown after graduating from high school take an unexpected twist. In the title story, an abused wife trying to raise two children and keep body and soul together tries to find solace in religion. Think of Jane Smiley’s Iowa, but with an Aussie twang.
Scribner. 317 pages. $25. ISBN: 0743276930

Guardian 4 of 5 Stars
"Rich in specific and sharply realised detail—the mingled smells of wild lupins and estuary mud, sparks struck at twilight from scuffed white sand, the haze of banksia scrub in the rolling swamplands—these stories convey the quiet authority of a man at ease in a fictional territory he can legitimately call his own." Jem Poster

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"I prefer this ‘whoa’ feeling when a single story comes completely yet inexpressibly together over the ‘wow’ feeling of running across the same characters, settings, or themes in several sequentially arranged stories. With Tim Winton, you can have both." Charles E. May

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Winton, a spare yet colloquial writer, lets just enough humor seep in to keep his characters from being terminally depressing or distractingly weird, but not enough to erode bleak reality. … While The Turning stories stand alone just fine, there is a dramatic depth to their richness when devoured as a group." Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Winton’s ability to arrange the written word appears effortless. His prose is graceful and elegant without drawing attention to itself, and stories move seamlessly from one to the next." Roland Goity

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"There’s great beauty, but there’s also an underlying, constant threat of chaos and violence; flora, fauna and weather alike seem always on the brink of disorder or chaos. … Like all the pieces in this strong collection, each is a compact gem." Adam Woog

Time 3 of 5 Stars
"Winton can seem to tread water. … Reading about the marital difficulties of Vic and Gail can be as interesting as a bout of unsuccessful whale watching, to which his characters are also prone. Otherwise, trimmed of its middle-aged spread, The Turning is as lissome as Winton’s best prose." Michael Fitzgerald

Critical Summary

Painful, raw, eloquent—these tales comprise a powerful defense for a much maligned genre, the short story collection. It’s no surprise that many of the stories here have been previously published in literary journals like The Threepenny Review. Winton’s language is taut, his characterization masterful, and the local color pitch-perfect. But what truly sets these stories apart is their emotional impact: they are subtle yet stirring and sensuous. Winton has been short-listed for the Booker Prize twice and is acclaimed in his native Australia. This collection will likely earn him the attention he deserves in the United States.

Also by the Author

Dirt Music (2002): 4 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2003. Winton’s "Australia-meets-Robinson Crusoe" tale involves three main characters. Georgie, a wild forty-year-old from an elite Perth family, finds herself in White Point with a man she doesn’t love—Jim, a expert fisherman. Then she begins an affair with Luther, a fish poacher who comes from a family of musicians.