Monday, January 13, 2014


The central character in the latest novel by Tim Winton is Tom Keely, an environmentalist who has lost his job and his wife and is living in a small apartment on the 10th floor of a building in Freemantle. Tom is down on his luck. His health is deteriorating and despite the encouragement and concern of his mother and sister he refuses to do anything about it. He has friends who ask after him but he has done his best to isolate himself from his past connections. One day he discovers that a neighbour on his floor lived in the same street as his family when they were both growing up. Gemma Buck looks after her six year old grandson, Kai, and despite his best intentions Tom reluctantly becomes involved with the lives of Gemma and Kai.

Location and environment are important in Tim Winton's novels. In Eyrie the description of the rooms where Tom and Gemma live and the surrounding streets of their part of Freemantle are described by Winton in detail as is the view of the water and the wharves from their balconies. The sea features regularly throughout the book and it is really only when swimming in the sea that Tom finds relief from the pressures of life. Meeting Gemma again brings back memories of their early childhood when Tom's family protected Gemma and her sister from an abusive parent. Gemma remembers Tom's parents, especially his father, as heroes and tells Kai stories about them. This creates additional pressure on Tom who feels he should also protect Gemma and Kai but is not sure that he has the willpower or strength to do so.

This is largely a novel about relationships - about Tom's relationship with his mother and sister; his relationship with Gemma and Kai plus his relationship with the memory of what his father may have done. Gemma also struggles with her attempts to bring up her grandson and to protect him from his parents. Memories of her past life contrast with the reality and challenges of her present life. The characters usually attempt to do the right thing but often it is not clear what the right thing to do really is.

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