This simply written yet surprisingly sophisticated coming-of-age story set in Western Australia was Tim Winton's first novel. It won the Vogel Award in 1981 and, reading it now, it comes as no surprise that Winton has gone on to become a multi-award winning, Booker-shortlisted novelist. Two qualities much admired in Winton's short stories of the same era - a straightforward simplicity of language, and a steadfast, minimalist refusal to explain everything for the reader - are employed very effectively here. In the stoic interaction of his male characters he captures that paradoxical combination of qualities we tend to associate with Australian men: a reserved bluntness. Yet there's nothing unsophisticated about Winton's craft. There are some well-chosen motifs which resonate through the novel - the notion of 'diving into the wreck' (set up with an epigraph from Adrienne Rich's poem); a sense of anxiety about masculine identity, established in the prologue episode and echoing through all that follows; and the final explanation of the 'open swimmer' that folds back and makes new meaning out of much that has come before it. Far from being pretentious, forced or merely decorative, these 'literary' touches are gently deployed, quietly amplifying the themes of the novel and elevating it from a conventional coming-of-age teen drama into the realm of serious literature. Winton's refusal to neatly resolve every strand of Jerra's story is true to life, too - something which many coming-of-age stories, usually written by or from the perspective of nostalgic middle-aged men, are not. Winton published this when he was only 22, which might have something to do with it. It's clearly a young man's novel, but it rings with the truth of lived experience. For that reason, it still has something to say.