Evaluation Cloudstreet

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MIRIAM KAUPPI considers Tim Winton one of Australia’s most acclaimed writers. He’s won the Miles Franklin Award four times (for Shallows in 1984, Cloudstreet in 1992, Dirt Music in 2002 and Breath in 2009); his novel The Riders was shortlisted for one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, in 1995, and his work has been adapted for TV, film and the stage. The Shepherd’s Hut has just been released and – in partnership with The School of Life – Winton is giving talks in Melbourne and Sydney about the book’s central concern: the effects and causes of toxic masculinity, and the short shrift it pays boys and young men. It comes at a time that feels loaded with potential for change, when the world is discussing – perhaps more seriously and openly than in a generation – the terrible effects of partriarchal values. But while the issue is bang-on-trend right now, it’s a subject Winton has dealt with before.

Over a 40-year career Winton has drawn male characters who are adrift in their societies or landscapes, or both. He’s known for examining and exploring the Australian-male experience, and his work has even been described as decidely “blokey”. Winton’s protagonists are often men and boys working out how to be in the world. They encounter situations and people that offer them a chance at redemption, or potential for growth. Sometimes they are boys on the verge of manhood. At others they’re men grappling with ideals of masculinity who are either too inexperienced at life or too far gone to be comfortable in their own skin.

As his children began their teen-age years, he began a series called the Lockie Leonard. Teaching these to boys resistant to reading became a breeze as they asked for others by the same author. Yet the Prime Minister of the time, John Howard, railed against them for being decadent.

Dymocks’ poll #

A new resident of Perth commented “Cloudstreet” acted as a map and history of Perth with rich feisty characters and events unfolding down the road from my house

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Cloudstreet by Tim Winton is the best Australian novel I’ve read in several years. I preface that by saying I don’t read many Australian novels, having been disappointed in the past and wishing to “travel” through my reading.

That said, Winton’s Western Australian setting is unique enough for me to enjoy the experience and his writing is simply superb.

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At the end I had to agree with Sister Veronica Brady, noted Nun of our parish, who reviewed the novel for our local newspaper. She said,

“It is, I suspect, a masterpiece.”

I can but agree. A masterpiece and a work of genius and a bloody good read.