The Turning by Tim Winton


I decided to read the Australia writer Tim Winton’s The Turning after seeing this enthusiastic review of the film in The Guardian. It’s hard enough to make a collection of short stories into a cohesive story; according to The Guardian, the film does that successfully with 17 different directors.

Winton took a different tack from his usual straight forward masterful storytelling here; the story unfolds obliquely, through a variety of characters told from different points in their lives. A character mentioned in passing in one story is the central figure in another. A character on the periphery of the key story adds  information that fills it in a bit, though the extent of the evil in the full story is only hinted at.

The transformation of a small town in Western Australia from a prosperous town to a place of awful corruption which then lost its economic base of whaling is the backdrop. The town is called Angelus and is understood to stand in for Albany where Winton came of age. Vic is the character who appears most often and we see how the corruption of the town affects him and his family.

In one story when Vic is 12 the extended family (Vic and his parents, his Uncle Ernie and his wife and children, and Vic’s grandmother) go to the beach for a holiday. One morning when Vic, his father, and Uncle Ernie are fishing, a set of giant waves came crashing in and Vic trapped for a time under the boat. I saw an interview on YouTube of Tim Winton telling about a time he almost drowned and that story was very similar to this one. He mentioned the near-drowning in Cloudstreet and responded to the interviewer that it was true that drowning did seem to turn up often in his work. Later in the interview he mentioned how at home he feels in the sea and that when his childen were babies he was struck by how comfortable they were in the sea as well.

Once again Tim Winton has written a truly wonderful book. It’s available in the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

And again…I decided to re-read the book now (November, 2015) in preparation for seeing the Netflix film, as advised by a review. It was well worth it, as Winton’s writing deserves a second reading. It’s interesting to note that while the prevalent story is the one mentioned above and many stories support in some fashion that narrative, there are a few that did not have any connection that I could see. Several of them are set in the fictional White Point, as is Winton’s book Dirt Music

Tim Winton, The Turning: new stories, Scribner, 2006, 317 pages.

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