Breath: A Novel

Breath: A Novel

by Tim Winton

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312428396
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 05/26/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 119,833
Product dimensions: 5.48(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 16 - 18 Years

About the Author

The preeminent Australian novelist of his generation, TIM WINTON is the author of the bestselling Cloudstreet, The Riders, and Dirt Music, among many other books. He lives in Western Australia.

Read an Excerpt

We come sweeping up the tree-lined boulevard with siren and lights and when the GPS urges us to make the next left we take it so fast that all the gear slams and sways inside the vehicle. I don’t say a thing. Down the dark suburban street I can see the house lit like a cruise ship.

Got it, she says before I can point it out.

Feel free to slow down.

Making you nervous, Bruce?

Something like that, I murmur.

But the fact is I feel brilliant. This is when I feel good, when the nerve-ends are singing, the gut tight with anticipation. It’s been a long, slow shift and there’s never been any love lost between Jodie and me. At handover I walked up on a conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear. But that was hours ago. Now I’m alert and tingly with dread. Bring it on.

At the call address Jodie kills the siren and wheels around to reverse up the steep drive. She’s amped, I guess, and a bit puffed up with a sense of her own competence. Not a bad kid, just green. She doesn’t know it but I’ve got daughters her age.

When she hits the handbrake and calls in our arrival at the job I jump out and rip the side door back to grab the resus kit. Beneath the porch steps on the dewy grass is a middle-aged bloke hugging himself in silence and I can see in a moment that although he’s probably done his collarbone he’s not our man. So I leave him to Jodie and go on up to announce myself in the open doorway.

In the livingroom two teenage girls hunch at opposite ends of a leather couch.

Upstairs? I ask.

One of them points without even lifting her head, and already I know that this job’s become a pack and carry. Usually they see the uniform and light up with hope, but neither of them gives me as much as a glance.

The bedroom in question isn’t hard to fi nd. A little mat of vomit in the hall. Splinters of wood. I step over the broken-down door and see the mother at the bed where the boy is laid out, and as I quietly introduce myself I take it all in. The room smells of pot and urine and disinfectant and it’s clear that she’s cut him down and dressed him and tidied everything up.

I slip in beside her and do the business but the kid’s been gone a while. He looks about seventeen. There are ligature marks on his neck and older bruises around them. Even while I’m going through the motions she strokes the boy’s dark, curly hair. A nice-looking kid. She’s washed him. He smells of Pears soap and freshly laundered clothes. I ask for her name and for her son’s, and she tells me that she’s June and the boy’s name is Aaron.

I’m sorry, June, I murmur, but he’s passed away.

I know that.

You found him a while ago. Before you called.

She says nothing.

June, I’m not the police.

They’re already on their way.

Can I open the wardrobe? I ask as Jodie steps into the
doorway.

I’d prefer that you didn’t, says June.

Okay. But you know that the police will.

Do they have to?

The mother looks at me properly for the fi rst time. She’s a handsome woman in her forties with short, dark hair and arty pendant earrings, and I can imagine that an hour ago, when her lipstick and her life were still intact, she’d have been erect and confident, even a little haughty.

It’s their job, June.

You seem to have made some kind of . . . assumption.

June, I say, glancing up at Jodie. Let’s just say I’ve seen a few things in my time. Honestly, I couldn’t begin to tell you.

Then you’ll tell me how this happened, why he’s done this to himself.

I’ve called for another car, says Jodie.

Yeah, good, I mutter. June, this is Jodie. She’s my partner tonight.

Go ahead and tell me why.

Because your husband’s broken his collarbone, says Jodie. He broke down the door here, right?

So what do I tell them? the mother asks, ignoring Jodie altogether.

That’s really for you to decide, I say. But there’s no shame in the truth. It’s fairer on everybody.

The woman looks at me again. I squat in front of her beside the bed. She smooths the skirt down onto her knees.

I must be transparent, she murmurs.

I try to give her a kindly smile but my face feels stiff. Behind her I can see the usual posters on the wall: surfers, rockstars, women in provocative poses. The bookshelf above the desk has its sports trophies and souvenirs from Bali and the computer goes through a screensaver cycle of the twin towers endlessly falling. She reaches for my hand and I give it to her. She feels no warmer than her dead son.

No one will understand.

No, I say. Probably not.

You’re a father.

Yes, I am.

Car doors slam in the street below.

June, would you like a moment alone with Aaron before the
police come in?

I’ve had my moment, she says, letting go my hand to pat her
hair abstractedly.

Jodie? Will you just pop down and let the police know where we are?

Jodie folds her arms petulantly but goes with a flick of her little blonde ponytail.

That girl doesn’t like you.

No, not much.

So what do I do?

I can’t advise you, June.

I’ve got other children to consider.

Yes.

And a husband.

He will have to go to hospital, I’m afraid.

Lucky him.

I get to my feet and collect my kit. She stands and brushes her skirt down and gazes back at the boy on the bed.

Is there anyone else you’d like me to call?

Jodie and two cops appear at the door.

Call? says June. You can call my son back. As you can see, he’s not listening to his mother.

Excerpted from Breath by Tim Winton. Copyright © 2008 by Tim Winton. All rights reserved.

Reading Group Guide

1. The story of Pikelet's experiences with Sando and Loonie are framed by scenes from his life as an older man. How would you describe his attitude towards the young man he was back then, and toward the choices he made?
2. Is Sando a good influence on the boys? Does help them in any way? Do you think he has their best interests at heart?
3. Pikelet and Loonie come together as friends over their shared fascination with risk. How do they ultimately experience surfing differently? What is it about them that leads their paths to diverge over the course of the story?
4. What is Eva's attitude toward Sando's relationship with the boys? What feelings does it bring up about her own situation and her own history?
5. What do you think draws Pikelet and Eva together? What does each of them get from their relationship? Do you think Pikelet bears some responsibility for what happens between them?
6. Look the scene where Sando, Loonie and Pikelet go to surf the Nautilus (p. 144-147). Why do you think Pikelet chooses not to surf that day? How does his refusal affect the course of his relationship with Sando and Loonie?
7. Several times in the story characters mention a resistance to being an "ordinary person," and many of the risks they take are motivated by a desire to stand outside ordinary life. Is this a healthy impulse? Have you experienced it, or known people who have? How do people you know handle it?
8. Later in the book we learn that Pikelet spent some time in an institution. What do you think happened in his mind to get him there? How did the surfing and the relationship with Eva affect him later in life?
9. Near the end of the story Pikelet sees footage of an aerial skier falling, howling in agony, and it reminds him of himself, a "slow-motion replay of how my mind had worked for too long"(p.
214). What do you think he recognizes in the skier and himself?
10. Do you think Pikelet and Loonie learn something of value from the risks they take? Are they better off for having endured the fear and surfed with Sando? Is it necessary to take these kinds of risks in order to feel alive?
11. Why do you think it's so important for the narrator to show his daughters that he surfs, that he "also does something completely pointless and beautiful"? What kind of relationship do you think he has with them?
12. How do the two boys' relationships with their parents contribute to their behavior as teenagers? Is surfing and their bond with Sando somehow a reaction against the place they came

from?

Customer Reviews

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Breath 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
molly08 More than 1 year ago
A well written, touching account of a young boys journey into manhood through his love of surfing. A very descriptive account of the beautiful coastline and surfing beaches of Western Australia. The author doesn't shy away from certain subject matter throughout the book, and it will make for very interesting discussions in many bookclubs. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hippypaul More than 1 year ago
Sawyer, we are told, is a town on the coast of Western Australia that lies between the forest and the sea. But in Sawyer "you keep to the mill, the town, the river." Breath a novel by Tim Winton tells the story of a boy growing up in this town. But he manages a lot more than a bildungsroman, a "coming of age story"; he also explores the limits of risk. Bruce Pike meets with three extraordinary people and undergoes a series of experiences within this story that profoundly shape his life. The author shows how the desire first to conform and then to excel can shape a life. He also dives deeply into the concept of risk and what it means to an individual to take a risk. Over the last few years the idea of extreme sport has come into the public eye. This novel provides perhaps the best description of the allure of this type of activity that I have read. It is an immensely gripping novel and one of the few books that I have read in literally one sitting. It is commonplace to say "I could not put it down", but with this book I would have been damn annoyed to have had to lay it aside. The book contains sexual material and deals with the limits of sex in the same way that it discusses other limit and risks. It is clearly an adult novel. I found it to be a fine and a full book and I recommend it wholeheartedly. A copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jaimal More than 1 year ago
Breath is a masterfully written tale of what it means to live in extremes; and since most of us, in our own ways, do, it¿s a tale about what it means to be alive.

I¿m ashamed to say that I only heard of Tim Winton when a blogger recently wrote that Saltwater Buddha reminded him of Winton¿s surf literature. I am now very honored to be mentioned in his company.

A novelist with a voice no one could copy, Winton¿s ability to be colloquial while employing phrases and vocabulary that make literary geeks froth is both entertaining and incredible. It took me 30 pages to get into Breath¿s subtle flow, the off-handed remarks, the Australian slang. But the narrative picks up speed as it goes and once in I scarcely wanted to put the book down.

I especially enjoyed the first half when the main character and his fearless best friend Loonie are bathing in the sheer magic of water and, as they get older, the pastime that will obsess them the rest of their lives: surfing. Winton deftly captures what it is to be a wide-eyed little grommet enamored with the water life: with pushing the limits of breath retention, with unbelievable fact that humans can ride pulses of saltwater, with learning the endless complexities of how weather affects the sea.

As their mentor Sando, an extraordinary older surfer who seems most motivated by his fear of the ordinary, pushes the two teens to confront their fears in sharky and death-defying surf, you feel the magic of childhood innocence slipping sadly away. But with each wave conquered you do feel something new and mysterious gurgling to the surface, something not unlike like air bubbles that might burst prematurely at any moment. The fear that they will bust into oblivion is what keeps you hanging on Winton¿s every word ¿ even through the novel¿s tougher parts.