From Tim Winton, Australia’s most decorated and beloved novelist and the author of Cloudstreet, comes The Shepherd’s Hut, the story of a young man on a thrilling journey of self-discovery in one of the harshest, near-uninhabitable climates on Earth.
Tim Winton is Australia’s most decorated and beloved novelist. Short-listed twice for the Booker Prize and the winner of a record four Miles Franklin Literary Awards for Best Australian Novel, he has a gift for language virtually unrivaled among writers in English. His work is both tough and tender, primordial and newalways revealing the raw, instinctual drives that lure us together and rend us apart.
In The Shepherd’s Hut, Winton crafts the story of Jaxie Clackton, a brutalized rural youth who flees from the scene of his father’s violent death and strikes out for the vast wilds of Western Australia. All he carries with him is a rifle and a waterjug. All he wants is peace and freedom. But surviving in the harsh saltlands alone is a savage business. And once he discovers he’s not alone out there, all Jaxie’s plans go awry. He meets a fellow exile, the ruined priest Fintan MacGillis, a man he’s never certain he can trust, but on whom his life will soon depend. The Shepherd’s Hut is a thrilling tale of unlikely friendship and yearning, at once brutal and lyrical, from one of our finest storytellers.
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About the Author
The preeminent Australian novelist of his generation, Tim Winton is the author of the bestselling novels Cloudstreet, The Riders, and Dirt Music, among many other books. He has won the Miles Franklin Literary Award four times (for Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music, and Breath) and has twice been short-listed for the Booker Prize (for The Riders and Dirt Music). He lives in Western Australia.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jaxie Clackton, our fifteen-year-old narrator, speaks directly to the reader in his distinctive Aussie voice, full or vernacular and swearing. His dad gets drunk and beats him up, to the extent that Jaxie wishes him dead. “All a person wants is feeling safe. Peace, that’s all I’m after.” And then one day a freak accident kills his dad. Jaxie thinks he might get blamed and, with barely any supplies, sets off from Monkton, Western Australia, heading north to Magnet to meet his cousin Lee, the only person he loves and trusts. During the trip, he reminisces, and we find out that his dad abandoned them when his mum was dying of cancer, which should have been a relief but was somehow worse. “No one should have to watch their mum die on their own.” Because of his dad, he was the laughing stock of the school and fought back, earning a reputation as well as detention. He remembers the good times, camping out with his mum and dad, fossicking for gold. He recalls the terrain from when he went hunting for goats and kangaroos with his dad. And he tells us how he spent time in his dad’s butcher shop learning the trade. All of this serves to explain how Jaxie comes to have the skills he needs to survive in the harsh landscape on his own. A string of good luck leads Jaxie to find a place to stay and a means of preserving his kill. “So don’t ever feel sorry for Jaxie Clackton. Because I’m one lucky bastard, I kid you not.” Then, after spending some time on his own, Jaxie comes across Fintan MacGillis, an old man holed up in a derelict shepherd’s hut, hiding from his past. Fintan convinces Jaxie to stay for a while. But soon Jaxie starts feeling trapped, like one of Fintan’s goats, which leads to him making a disastrous decision. Initially, the book is hard to read because of all the colloquialisms and poor grammar used by our narrator. But, with the whole first part being a monologue, you soon get used to it. There are times when Jaxie tends to lose his voice, with inconsistencies in the use of me/my and meself/myself being the most obvious. There is no dialogue until the second part of the book - when Jaxie meets Fintan - and then it’s sometimes difficult to read because of the lack of quotation marks. There are also some pretty foul descriptions and images, making this a book that might appeal to young blokes around Jaxie’s age. The story begins in the present and shifts to the past, slowly letting us know how Jaxie comes to be where he is now. At the end, we end up right back to where we started. Along the way, Jaxie drops hints about what is to come, a trick that keeps us reading to find out how things eventuate. This is an extraordinary feat of writing, mainly because there isn’t much plot. The book is more a character study of Jaxie’s journey into manhood, his coming of age story. His father wasn’t a good role model, but we see how Jaxie changes after meeting Fintan, a good man who has a positive effect on his life. Fintan is an intriguing character who always remains a mystery. And let’s not forget the harsh Aussie landscape, which is a character in its own right. A moving coming of age story. Warnings: coarse language, sexual references, violence. I got this book on loan from the library. Full blog post (1 April): https://www.booksdirectonline.com/2019/04/the-shepherds-hut-by-tim-winton.html
The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton is a highly recommended novel that is emotional, disturbing, and brutal but eloquently written. Jaxie Clackton, 15, a physically and emotionally abused young man flees the small town where he lives after seeing his father’s accidental death. Jaxie takes a small amount of food, a rifle and a water jug and then starts out on foot through the back county of Western Australia, setting a course toward where his cousin Lee lives. He loves her and thinks they can escape somewhere together after he hides out for a while. After hiking for days, starving and thirsty, he comes to an abandoned cabin where he takes shelter. When exploring one day, hoping for water, he sees a shepherd's hut and meets exiled priest Fintan MacGillis. Jaxie must decide if he can trust MacGillis. The two eventually forge an unlikely bond until Jaxie discovers something nearby that could threaten the safety of both of them. This is Jaxie's first person account and Winton writes in Jaxie's vernacular, slang and all which might throw some readers for a loop. Most of the words you will be able to figure out through the usage. As he talks about his father's cruelty and the beatings and then his acting out, your heart will break - and then you'll wonder why the neighbors in the small town didn't take action. It will physically hurt when he talks about his mom, who passed away from cancer, and her not leaving her husband despite the beatings... and Jaxie puzzles out why she stayed. Jaxie thinks he is tough, has acted out, because he's had to be tough. Winton's ability to portray Jaxie and MacGillis is absolutely amazing. The writing is impressive and eloquent. The story is troubling, full of pain and suffering. This is a story of damaged people respecting each other's secrets and trying to form a very unlikely friendship. For those who need to know, there is blood. There is catching and butchering animals. There is swearing and bad grammar as this is Jaxie's voice. These are two social outcasts working together. It is the story of a boy becoming a man. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
I chose to read this book because Tim Winton is described as "Australia’s most decorated and beloved novelist" and I had never heard of him. So I had to see what I was missing! The plot sounded like it would be interesting since it was set in Australia's outback and I've always found Australia to be such an interesting country. The first few chapters were raw and brutal. Jaxie Clackton's mother is dead and his father, who has abused Jaxie all his life, dies a violent death. Jaxie runs from home thinking he will be blamed for his father's death. All he takes with him are a water jug and a rifle as he sets out walking through the Australian wilderness to the only person who has ever understood him, his cousin Lee. During his lonely journey he discovers a priest in exile, Finton McGinnis. Jaxie doesn't know what the priest did or whether he can trust him, but they strike up an uneasy friendship and Jaxie stays with him awhile. The story of this strange friendship and what is occurring in the salt lands is central to this story. There were many Australian slang words and phrases I didn't recognize and had to look them up, but I found the local language and scenery fascinating. The writing is at times fierce and at times lyrical - very intriguing. I may look for other books by Tim Winton since I liked the book and because of his reputation. Thanks to Tim Winton and Farrar, Straus and Giroux through Netgalley for an advance copy of this book.