Cloudstreet was recently voted as the top Australian book to read before you die, by the First Tuesday Book Club show, with help by votes from the Australian public. I therefore feel it is timely to make my confession: I tried, and could not, read Cloudstreet.
If you’re thinking this is a ‘Tim Winton’ thing, it’s not. I love other work by Tim Winton, in particular Breath, and The Riders. And to be perfectly honest, it’s not so much that I couldn’t finish Cloudstreet, it is more that I could never really start it. I think I survived ten pages, before I put the book down and left to do something else, and never felt the need to pick the novel up again. I’ve never been good with novels that start slowly, and have always had the tendency to cast books aside which don’t hook me in the first couple of pages. The longest I fought against the urge to give up on a book was while reading Pride and Prejudice. I persisted until halfway through, with that mantra of it’s a classic, I should read it, everyone likes it, running on repeat through my head. This mantra was so strong with Pride and Prejudice that I was silly enough to try and read the thing twice. I always felt like I should give books I couldn’t finish the first time around a second chance, in case I was “too young” to really enjoy them. Well, I’m older now and I’ve finally realised that the “too young” reason is a myth. The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, even Lord of the Flies, although I suspect my reading of that particular book was tainted by that episode of The Simpsons, are books that I’ve never been able to read more than a couple of chapters of.
I have finally reached the conclusion that I am my own person, with my own reading tastes, and there are certain books I’m simply not going to like, even if they’re deemed the best book of the year, the decade, the century, the millennium or even of mankind, ever.
I wish that Cloudstreet wasn’t on that list, because, in general, I love Tim Winton’s writing. But there are so many books to read that I can’t afford to spend time reading a book which simply doesn’t do it for me, even if that book happens to be voted as the number one Australian book to read before I die.
So, Tim Winton, I’m sorry- but Cloudstreet wasn’t a book for me.