If you only ever read one Australian novel, it had better be this one.
Set in the mid 20th century, in the suburbs of Perth, it is the story of two rough-edged families who share an old rambling house.
Any reader is bound to identify with one character at least, and possibly find themselves wanting to wring the necks of others.
They are not extraordinary, but what is extraordinary is the way Tim Winton paints them and gets them living together, loving and hating in seemingly understandable degrees. There is little formal education amongst them, but from time to time weird and wonderful wisdom.
One husband is a habitual gambler who relies on good luck as if it is an inevitable disease and takes the bad luck with a shrug — he knows it has to happen. He does not stop gambling. He is married to an unhappy woman of flexible morals.
The other one is an amateur musician on such instruments as a nose flute, harmonica or comb, whose self-esteem is non-existent, and whose wife lives in a tent in the back yard and is indomitable.
Indisputably, her bible is the Bible.
We see their children grow up, and sometimes away, and one of them is severely brain-damaged.
One brother thinks this is his fault and has to come to terms with it. One daughter hates her mother and lets her know it.
And on it goes.
The old house accommodates them all, including the next generation, and a shop established by the indomitable wife.
Their differences are at least partly resolved and meaningful friendships are established.
They acquire trades and professions, and sometimes marry one another. Disasters and triumphs occur and are equally taken in stride.
It is almost unbelievable the author was only 30 years old when this was first published.
It is a great read.
— Lee Stephenson