Bibliofemme Bookclub An Irish Bookclub

January 10, 2012

An Open Swimmer by Tim Winton

Filed under: Bookclub Books,General Fiction — Femmes @ 3:07 pm
An Open Swimmer Book Cover An Open Swimmer
Tim Winton
General Fiction
Pan Macmillan

Meeting: Friday 20th May 2005

Tim Winton’s first novel is a classic character study, where not much happens.

To begin with we are presented with Jerra Nilsam, a young man who is desperately searching for some sort of meaning in his life. The novel is based along the Western Australian coastline and revolves around conversations, camping, reflection, fishing, letters, relationships and death. Jerra’s rejection of a conventional life drives a wedge between him and his long-term mate and camping buddy, Sean.

I found the first few chapters intriguing. The dialogue between Sean and Jerra was tense and disjointed, and the introduction of the old man as a third character had me hooked. It was the beginning of the end of their friendship. We never really find out what happens to their relationship. From that point on we are introduced to a host of other characters, both new and from Jerra’s past. The plot seems to loose momentum and structure. We learn about Jerra’s relationship with Sean’s mother, who is in a mental hospital and how the old man murdered his wife. Jerra’s grandfather dies and Jerra reads his old diaries. Jerra’s intense search for the pearl in the head of a fish is a metaphor for his ultimate search for some meaning to life and hence his desire to be a writer. It seems there’s a multitude of stories evolving into one, and some stories have loose ends.

It’s not all grim. There’s some beautiful imagery. Winton’s characterisation is wonderful and his language is rich and evocative.

I should have selected Dirt Music or That Eye the Sky. That Eye the Sky was published in 1986, four years after An Open Swimmer was published. I can definitely, without a doubt, say his style has bloomed since then. The Filmmaker 3/5

Score awarded by Bibliofemme: 2.5 out of 5

What the other femmes had to say
The Writer “Definite hints of brilliance, but it took me a while to get into this book. I was left with the feeling Winton hadn’t matured enough as a writer to completely carry off such an ambitious experiment. Hats off all the same – he wrote it when he was 19 and still at college!” 3/5

The DJ “Winton’s debut hints at Hemingway and Steinbeck – which is not bad for a 19-year old. The language was wonderfully colloquail and the story had huge potential but somehow it trailed off confusingly and his experiments in stream of consciousness don’t always work. That said, his writing intrigued me enough to want to read more of his work.” 3/5

The Techie “Although the language annoyed me initially I grew used to it quite quickly. Apart from some beautiful descriptions this book was annoying in that it didn’t have continuity. The interesting parts of the story fell by the way side, it felt rushed. Would love to read some of his later work.” 2/5

The Gardener “Does anyone have a lifesaver? Be careful of jumping in here, the lack of structure, plot and loose ends is enough to keep any one swimming for years.” 1/5

The Connoisseur “There were some beautiful passages in this story, such as the detailed accounts of his fishing trips. But they just didn’t do it for me. I found that the depiction of his job in the deli was the one small part where he truly shines. Disappointing that he didn’t show more energy throughout.” 1/5

The Artist “Interesting opening gambit, from an obviously young writer. The promise shown here warrants a look at later works.” 3/5

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