Cloudstreet traces the fortunes and misfortunes of two rural families who move to the big smoke of Wartime Perth after different tragedies. Two disparate families, the Pickles from Geraldton, and the Lambs from Margaret River converge to share a large rambling house in downtown Perth.

The Lambs of God are industrious, god fearing and prudent while the Pickles are laid back, improvident and loose in their morals. Chronic gambler and loser, Sam Pickles, lost one hand in a boating accident, while the vivacious favourite son in the Lamb family, named Fish, became retarded after nearly drowning. The time setting is from WWII,1940’s to the early 1960’s and deals with the changes to the city of Perth.

The central characters are well developed with the clear idiosyncratic features of ordinary lovable losers and no-hopers. Through the vernacular dialogue and realistic incidents Winton recreates authentic life of mid twentieth century Australia.

The large rambling shared house becomes a dominant feature in each family’s lives and ultimately brings the two families together with the marriage of Rose and Quick.

Personified, the house’s past ghosts comes back to haunt the present inhabitants with supernatural elements of black spectres, talking pigs and creaking noises.

Using a complex circular narrative structure, Cloudstreet, begins at the present, moves onto the past and comes back to present with the half of Fish who didn’t come back providing much of the commentary.

There is compelling evidence that much of the novel is based on Winton’s ancestors.

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