Arguably one of the finest of all Australian novelists, Tim Winton shows that he remains in top form with Dirt Music
, a wistful, charged, ardent novel of female loss and amatory redemption. The setting is Winton's favorite: the thorn-bushed, sheep-farmed, sun-punished boondocks of Western Australia. The cast is limited but spirited: the two chief protagonists are Georgie Jutland, a fortysomething adoptive mother with a vodka problem, and Luther Fox, a brooding, feral, bushwhacking poacher.
The plot is something else altogether: an elegantly wearied, cleverly finessed mutual odyssey that opts to follow the sometimes intertwining, sometimes diverging lives of poor Georgie and Luther as they try to deal with the odd alliance they comprise, as well as the complex and fractured lives they want to leave behind. The way Georgie deals with her unwitting inheritance of two dissatisfied adopted kids is particularly touching, poignant, and well written.
Best of all, though, is the prose. Somehow it manages to be simultaneously juicy and dry, like a desert cactus. This is especially true when Winton touches on the scented harshness of the Down Under outback: "the music is jagged and pushy and he for one just doesn't want to bloody hear it, but the outbursts of strings and piano are as austere and unconsoling as the pindan plain out there with its spindly acacia and red soil." This is a wise and accomplished novel. --Sean Thomas, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
The stunning new narrative by Australian writer Winton (The Riders, nominated for the Booker), a tale of three characters' perilous journey into the Australian wilderness in efforts to escape and atone for their pasts, may just be his breakthrough American publication. At 40, Georgie Jutland, former nurse, inveterate risk-taker, incipient alcoholic and lifelong rebel against her prominent family, has moved in with widowed lobster fisherman Jim Buckridge, "the uncrowned prince" of the western seaside community of White Point. Although Georgie devotes herself to Jim's two young sons, their relationship is uneasy and somehow empty. When she's drawn to shamateur (fish poacher) Luther Fox, who breaks the law to keep his mind from tragic memories, the lives of all three begin to unravel. Lu, the lone survivor of a disreputable family of musicians who specialized in dirt music (country blues), is a memorable character, vulnerable and appealing despite his many flaws. When the White Point community resorts to violence against him, he heads into the tropic wilderness of Australia's northern coast, and the plot begins to challenge CBS's Survivor. With masterly economy and control, Winton unfurls a story of secrets, regrets and new beginnings. His prose, sprinkled with regional vernacular, combines cool dispassion and lyric concision. Geography and landscape are palpable elements: as the narrative progresses, the atmosphere shifts from the austere monotony of a seacoast battered by wind into spectacular gorge country, the bare desolation of the desert and the terrible heat of the tropics. But it's each character's inner landscape that Winton authoritatively traverses with his unerring map of the heart.
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