When most people think of Australian authors, I’d be surprised if Tim Winton wasn’t one of the first names to jump to mind. Not only did his career begin by winning The Australian/Vogel literary award in 1981 (a prestigious award for unpublished manuscripts by authors under 35 years of age), but his books are so inherently Australian, often set in Australia with characters so unmistakably like your neighbour or that guy from up the road who drives an old rusty ute, that it would be criminal not to mention Winton amongst Australia’s best.
The Turning is a collection of 17 short stories, and I believe the short form shows Winton at his finest. His languid prose ebbs and flows along, and while I think the novel Breath is absolutely beautiful, it is easy to see how such melancholy writing could become tiresome in a longer form, whereas the short story craves this drawn out revelation.
Winton’s short story ‘Big World’, which opens the collection, is one of my favourites from this book. Winton effortlessly captures the dreams of youth, and how quickly they can be snatched from fruition. Likewise, ‘The Turning’, from which the collection takes its title, is a cunning tale. Each time I thought I guessed where the story was going, Winton managed to guide me down a path I hadn’t even considered.
This book was the first time I’d read a whole collection of short stories by Winton, and I find them much more enticing than his novels. He has the ability to hook the reader without their knowledge until they find themselves so deep in the story they can’t pull free. I would argue that crafting a short story can be a much more onerous task than a full-length novel, yet Winton seems to pull this off without breaking into a sweat.
There is no sugar-coating in Winton’s work. He writes Australia as he sees it, with characters who are sometimes infuriating, sometimes blind to their world, but all inherently a part of an Australian way of life.
The Turning, Tim Winton