1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the impossibility of knowing
This is a book that deserves two readings to fully appreciate it's worth. Winton presents us with the classic scenario of the unexpected dissolution of a relationship. This time, it is the man and not the woman abandoned, the man and not the woman who follows their heart rather than their head. Scully is a man we can't help but like when we first meet him. He is content...
Published on June 28 2001 by marlowe
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfair to readers
For the first 50 pages I was sure this would become one of my favorite books of the year. I was captivated by Winton's brilliant prose and his intriguing premise: Scully's wife Jennifer flies from Australia to join him in Ireland but doesn't get off the plane. Their daughter Billie does, but won't tell what happened to her mother. I felt nicely set up for a fine tale of...
Published on April 10 2004
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfair to readers,
By A Customer
For the first 50 pages I was sure this would become one of my favorite books of the year. I was captivated by Winton's brilliant prose and his intriguing premise: Scully's wife Jennifer flies from Australia to join him in Ireland but doesn't get off the plane. Their daughter Billie does, but won't tell what happened to her mother. I felt nicely set up for a fine tale of suspense, as Scully sets off to find Jennifer. There was indeed plenty of suspense, as well as marvelously vivid descriptions of places and people. But when I finished the book I was frustrated and enraged. Read Michael Leone's review--he expresses my feelings eloquently. Furthermore, why couldn't we learn what happened to Jennifer? The only clue is Billie's impression on the plane that her mother's face was turning to marble. Not very helpful. One must conclude that Winton doesn't want us to understand, he wants us to accept the mystery without the resolution. That seems to be the message of the horsemen who gathered near the ruined Irish castle, twice: they symbolize Scully's desperate search, his failure, and his wounded psyche. Well, my psyche wasn't wounded by this book but it was definitely let down.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contrived and Implausible Stuff.,
I wanted to like this book, I really did. It's an interesting premise but the book sets the reader up for something and then totally fails to deliver on it. You learn nothing that you didn't already know at the start, which is nothing.
You spend the first eighty pages or so with Scully fixing up his house in Ireland for his seven-year-old daughter and wife who are supposedly coming to meet him. Eighty pages of him scrubbing, grouting, plastering, shoveling, painting, broken by some chatty interludes with a minor character Peter Keneally. Unless you're Joyce or Nabokov or Proust there is no way to make these mundane activities compelling for eighty pages. I would have forgiven Winton at forty pages, but at eighty it's just too dull and the attempt at plot build-up totally off kilter.
Finally, the first climax comes: Scully goes to pick up his wife and child at the airport and only the child emerges from the plane. Where is his wife? We all want to know, of course, as we've spent eighty pages waiting for her and listening to Winton tell us how much Scully is looking forward to it, but his daughter won't tell him, despite the fact that Winton gives us a brief scene with the child on the airplane (which airplane is just another one of the unsolved mysteries in this book) with her mother, so we KNOW at some point the child was with her. Billie, his daughter, will never tell him, and after a while, for no reason that I can possibly discern, other than Winton's attempt to keep up the novelty of "suspense", Scully stops asking her about it. Would you do this as a parent? Wouldn't you find some way to coax this vital info out of your seven-year-old child? But I guess the info isn't so important to Winton.
Scully then decides, as though he's a private detective -- why he doesn't spend his money on a professional we'll never know, but then Winton wouldn't have a novel -- to go look for her. And he takes his daughter with him! Imagine that! A guy dragging his seven-year-old all around Europe. (Nobody in the novel even questions how abusive and unfair this is -- even after the girl suffers a vicious dog attack.) Scully flocks to Greece where he meets a variety of extremely frustrating drunks and bohemians who REFUSE to answer a question directly or provide him (or us) with any tangible information. The story at this point becomes Monty Pythonish, it's so absurd. Here is a desperate man looking for his wife and a cynical friend just toys with him: "Where is she?" "She? She?" "Come on Arthur. [...]." "Oh dear."
Winton deliberately tantalizes us with the bare bones of a thriller without giving us any of the meat such a genre requires. Why? Is he being postmodern? That could be his defense, but then why does he try so hard at being "realistic"?
Then Scully meets a woman, Irma, en route to Italy, who, based ona photo she plucks from his wallet, claims she saw his wife at a hotel in Greece with another woman. Aha, the reader says. Finally, a morsel of information -- we're halfway through the book now -- might be given. Another false lead. Scully doesn't believe her, I guess because Irma's a bit of a floozy, and so he hardly probes into the idea of his wife being with a woman, hardly probes into any idea at all and yet insists on going from city to city of his expat past with his daughter. He refuses to pack it in.
Other coincidences abound that leave you and the characters NOWHERE and with NO ANSWERS. Scully finds himself a murder suspect in Greece, but he flees before any authority has a chance to apprehend him. Why this intrigue? An attempt to keep the pages turning, I guess. A telegram is sent to an Amex office in Florence, purportedly from his wife, telling him to meet him in Paris. She doesn't show. Was it a hoax? Why doesn't she come? Don't expect answers.
I found this book to be contrived, implausible, and in the end, utterly frustrating. Scully's relationship with his wife, with his past, who he thought she was, who he thinks he is, are not remotely explored, not even superficially a la Paul Auster, and are certainly not dramatized. Scully's entire "voyage" has no point, no catharsis, no resolution. It's a big shaggy dog story.
There are strengths: some of the prose is brisk and effective, the secondary characters are quite good and memorable, especially Peter Keneally and Irma, etc. The dialogue is top-notch, and unlike the story, real.
It just fails to add up to a story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the impossibility of knowing,
This is a book that deserves two readings to fully appreciate it's worth. Winton presents us with the classic scenario of the unexpected dissolution of a relationship. This time, it is the man and not the woman abandoned, the man and not the woman who follows their heart rather than their head. Scully is a man we can't help but like when we first meet him. He is content with what he has, and gains enormous pleasure from love and comforting surroundings. He is in every sense the new age guy, waiting for his family to join him for their new life in Ireland. The romance of their nomadic lifestyle and the resurrection of the old cottage in Ireland lure us in, so that Jennifer's disappearance is a profound shock. The novel descends with the disconcerting plummet of an elevator, as everything Scully believes to be true unravels. In the process, Scully unravels before our eyes, and we question whether we really like this man at all. A warning though. If you don't like endings that provoke more mystery than they solve, this book will leave you frustrated. This is where the second reading comes in. When you read it the second time you appreciate that this is one man's journey towards acceptance that sometimes life doesn't provide solutions or endings. If we are to move forward, we have to accept that life and people will not always give us what we think we need, to make sense of ourselves and others. On the second reading you see that for Winton to have given the reader answers that life will not give Scully, would be to defeat the purpose of the entire novel. Like Scully, we are left to wonder why. And that, is as it should be.
3.0 out of 5 stars Walkabout in Eurohell,
Rarely has an Aussie experienced such a miserable walkabout. Scully, the protagonist of this grim novel, drags his daughter Billie through Europe in search of his vanished wife, a black haired beauty with a similarly shaded heart. Scully is an utter moron, a naive everyman. His endearing unpretentiousness is negated by a tendency to make whopping errors of judgment. Winton writes dreamy sentences that evoke place and pain, but his plot stretches plausibility. We're required to believe that a good-natured bloke like Scully could actually subject his child to such tortures. His neglect is stupefying.
Gypsy girl Billie, in one of the novel's many role reversals, eventually shepherds her doofus father, her comic book Quasimodo come to life, as they chase down shadows in unfamiliar Amsterdam. This reader simply wanted the search to end, for the hapless wanderers to return to their refurbished tumble-down in County Offaly. When they finally do, the house still feels vacant, the rooms draughty and cheerless. What Scully learns from the whole ordeal, other than his own ineffectuality, is not entirely clear.
3.0 out of 5 stars A man , his daughter and their quest.,
Tim Winton the riders is a book about love. Love and the many things it forces you to do. Winton shows us a man[Scully] so in love his world becomes but clouded and he sees nothing but the best in people. He bows to his wife's demands and follows her all around the globe without a word.
Winton uses Scully's wife Jennifer's disappearance as a way to show us how much love influences people. Scully and his daughter are left to fend for themselves and they struggle.
Scullys world becomes clouded with this love. " Your two soft on people , you think the best of them", and he doesn't believe his wife has deserted him. Winton uses this to show us the madness of losing love as Scully gallivants around Europe in search of his lost bride dragging his child , neglecting his responsibilities as a father.
With some strange references to the mysterious "Riders" possibly soldiers of the apocalypse , who knows but strange souls in torment. Scullys soul torments and yet is he to become one of them?
Cleverly Jennifer's whereabouts is never revealed and we are left to wonder, what has happend.This has intrigued many of my counterparts and the majority has the feeling she is a lesbian, but who is to know. Strange people do strange things and Wintons Jennifer is nothing but strange(and sexy maybe).
This is a book to intrigue and wonder about. Haunting and baffling to the end.
2.0 out of 5 stars What happened to "The Riders"?,
Did I miss the point or did anyone notice that the major thread running throughout this book is child abuse. Suffice it to say that it wasn't intentional but when Scully's daughter shows up alone at Shannon airport traumatized and speechless, unable to explain the whereabouts of her mother, he begins the trek of a lifetime to find her. The book goes on and on as he drags Billie from country to country and bar to bar unable to face the truth, that his wife has left him.
Seven-year-old Billie, is mauled by a dog, her face becomes infected and scared due to improper care. Scully brings her to squalid bars while he gets drunk day after day where she listens to disgusting language. In Amsterdam she is left to her own demise, as her father gets drunk to drown his sorrow. Somewhere around this point Scully is hit over the head and carted off to jail on Christmas Day.
I stuck with this book because the author actually made Scully out to be a devoted dad and a likable character, the beginning of the book was exceptional and I was curious about the ending. It's just too bad he didn't follow through. I do wish there was more tie in to "The Riders", a ghostly group, mysteriously introduced in the beginning but that was also anticlimactic, and given no more than a few pages.
The time came when I felt like enough is enough it's time to take it like a man Scully, and take care of your child. I got to the point where I didn't even care what happened to his wife Jennifer. I find it hard to believe this book was up for the Booker prize. I found it easy to skip whole paragraphs in the middle as Scully's paranoia ran rampart and repetitive. I kept thinking am I missing the point here but every time I doubted my reading savvy I was put off by the underlying child abuse. Kelsana 3/19/01
2.0 out of 5 stars What the Dickens?!,
Now I would hate to rubbish Tim Wintons latest tome outright because frankly, it was a compelling read. I couldn't put it down till I had turned the last page, this is true. However this urgency was inspired more by my desperation to get the tale of doom and gloom over and done with, then out of a desire to gallop along with the protagonist to an enlightening conclusion.
Wintons novel is no less then a Victorian tale of melodrama and sentimentality. Charlie boy would have been proud! The protagonist -- Scully, is introduced as a pathetic, doting husband, all too earnest and well intentioned. We know from the start that he is a victim having been abandoned by his wife to bring up little daughter Billy (echoes of Oliver, little Dorrit and poor Joe haunt her characterisation) in a ruined Irish cottage. The novel follows his frantic scramble across Europe searching for his illusive spouse with little Billy knocking along behind with resolute maturity. Clearly she is the real victim and one might even be inspired to feel sympathy for her if it weren't for the overwhelming metaphors and allegories and several lashings of pathos.
Everything that can happen to this desperate pair, does happen, till the reader is simply overloaded and exasperated. Scully is quite the anti hero -- with his disfigured face, wounded eye and scarred builders hands. Co incidentally Billies favourite comic is Victor Hugos' 'Hunch Back of Notre Dame'. It is hardly surprising then that on a cold Christmas night in Paris, Scully (drunk and penniless) is persuaded to take refuge in the Cathedral by his pleading daughter? Bells tolling about their heads...
The laboured metaphors plod through the body of the book till at the last moment what better symbol to sum up failure then the proverbial sinking ship.
By this stage I was crying for mercy!
Now to be fair to Charles Dickens who is one of the great classical writers, there is a place for Victorian Melodrama -- even today. What surprises me is that The Riders was short listed for the Booker Prize in 1995. I find it astounding when you see how much intelligent, sensitive, modern literature goes unnoticed in the marketplace today, that The Riders should be singled out for such praise.
My opinion of the Booker Prize has waned somewhat I fear.
3.0 out of 5 stars The Riders pulls up short,
While I enjoyed the powerful imagery in The Riders, I feel that it needed to have a sharper focus running through it. The early scenes about Ireland really worked for me but the problem is Winton could have done more to weave them in to make it a story with more depth to it. The author creates these great pictures in your mind like of an old abandoned castle in the distant fields from Scully's new cottage. Or ghost riders on horseback during the late hours outside the castle. Intriguing stuff. But he just leaves it at that. Scully's wife leaves him, so he sets off on an impulsive trek to find her (or himself) as he tries to piece together why she left. Scully goes to Greece, Amsterdam and back to Ireland never really finding out anything. I feel his Scully character really makes no real shift in himself except getting drunk and feeling sorry for himself. It is, as if, the initial shock of her leaving just stays there to the end. The story would have had more completion for me if Winton showed Scully to have either the resolve to carry on as his own man with optimism or as a pessimistic defeated man. I was left with an empty void. I didn't have any real indication what was on Scully's mind. That was my biggest frustration. We never find out his internal thoughts in any real way. While the action does keep you interested to keep reading toward the end, I feel like I was just standing around as I read, waiting for something big to happen in Scully. In the end, it never came. Winton's book Cloudstreet is a far better book.
5.0 out of 5 stars The unknowability of the human heart,
By A Customer
Tim Winton's "The Riders", a Booker Prize nominee, is one of the most impressive novels I have read all year. It is a brilliantly crafted and expertly executed literary achievement by one of Australia's most promising modern young writers. Preparing to start a new life with his wife Jennifer and young daughter Billie in Ireland, Scully's life is blown apart when he goes to the airport to meet his family but finds only Billie and no message from his missing wife. With Billie in tow, he travels to Greece, France and the Netherlands in search of Jennifer but unbeknown to himself begins a journey of self discovery that will alter the course of his life in ways he never envisaged. The Scully you meet in the first few chapters, giddy with happiness and anticipation as he toils to make habitable a ramshackle old place he has bought to begin a new life with his family, is so "up" and vibrant a life force, you feel a palpable sense of hurt watching his slide downhill. But redemption awaits around the corner. While Jennifer, a shadowy figure, remains an enigma, her disappearance forces Scully to come to terms with feelings of betrayal and to recognise that it is perhaps impossible to truly know another human being. The unknowability of the human heart, arguably the novel's central theme, is powerfully captured in the recurring image of riders on white horses, all spendiferously dressed, but still and silent and oblivious to all as they line up for parade in the night. The gradual role reversal we witness in the adult-child relationship between Scully and Billie only deepens the sense of pathos evoked by new circumstances as they unfold. Billie, quiet and uncommunicative, but who proves ultimately to be the quicker learner of life's lessons, ends up taking charge. She quite literally controls the purse strings by the end of the story. Winton's language is colourful and he uses imagery to dazzling effect. His minor characters (eg, Irma, Alex and Pete) are also memorable. They remain sharply etched in our minds long after they have been written out of the plot. Irma, arguably Scully's saviour, may be a damaged soul but she possesses the essence of humanity absent from the sophisticated but calculating Jennifer. "The Riders" is such a rare and haunting beauty of a novel I can only recommend other readers to take their time enjoying it. Richly deserving of its Booker Prize award nomination. Go get it !
4.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Book for Careful Readers, Thankfully,
The first word that comes to mind when I think of this novel is "playful."
I don't mean playful in the sense that its characters are involved in conflicts that are comic, or that the tone of the book is light-hearted -- not at all. The themes of this book are deeply serious, cautioning any reader against choosing contentedness over insight, obtuseness over growth.
Rather, what I find most rewarding, and most challenging, about the book is how expertly Tim Winton allowed himself the freedom to play with the conventions of the novel in order to better tell the story he set out to tell.
His narrative choices are neither obvious nor safe (for instance, there *is* a closure to this book, an extremely satisfying one, but only if you don't get sidetracked with one of the more dramatic subplots), but all his choices seem organic to his intentions, and are extremely energizing to read...
...if you're willing to read carefully.
It does not surprise me at all to find that there are readers who are resistant to the book. I'd guess each reader's response is related to how much he or she is willing to trust Winton and how carefully he or she is willing to consider the book page by page. It is certainly not a book that rewards the passive reader.
I would hate to spoil any of the books many rewards by a specific account of the plot, but I did want to add to the comments above that I think the perfect reader for this novel is the reader who enjoys a book that challenges you to suspend your conventional reading biases and learn a thing or two. If you trust this novel, and there is no reason not to, it will teach you how to read it. This is a bigger leap to take, perhaps, than a lot of readers are willing to take.
I'm extremely glad that The Riders was validated with a Booker nomination. I recommend it to every humble reader I know.
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The Riders by Tim Winton (Paperback - June 1996)
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