Cloudstreet - Tim Winton

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Cloudstreet - Tim Winton Empty Cloudstreet - Tim Winton

Post by Graham on Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:34 pm

This is the best book I have read in years. It is set in Western Australia in the closing days of world War II and chronicles the fortunes of two working class families, both reeling from hard luck and tragedy, who up sticks and travel to the city coming by chance to lodge together in the eponymous house in Perth. The Lambs are hard-working and turn their side of the house into a prosperous general store, the Pickles, Sam idle and prone to gambling, and Rose, prone to alcohol and other men have inherited the house and live mostly off the Lambs’ rent money.

It is hugely funny but not without enormous heart-break. Nothing runs straight for either family or their progeny. The Lamb’s son Quick has been deeply affected by the accident that left his brother Fish with brain damage. In his late teens he leaves the family to make his living in the outback culling roos. Rose the Pickles’ daughter has an equal share of melancholy and her life is threatened with anorexia. The other children have their own stories and the whole is woven into a quirky, fascinating tapestry. It is a month since I read it and there are tears in my eyes just thinking about it. Much of the joy for me was in the language. There is no use having the dictionary to hand with this one. It is full of Australian slang and invention. I lived in Western Australia for a year so perhaps I had a head start but even the English you might recognise is used in unique ways:

‘Wallpaper the colour of floor fluff’
‘Chubb Pickles sleeps like he was custom built for it’

There are elements that could be magic realism but equally they could really happen: a well-dressed black man who appears now and again to make cryptic remarks, the family pig that might speak and sing. Somehow it all blends together into a tale that slips easily under your defences. I recommend it whole-heartedly. It left me warm and contented.


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