Book Review: ‘Eyrie’ by Tim Winton (Penguin Australia)

Tom Keely’s life is in tatters. His marriage is over, his fall from grace at work was public and complete. He’s getting by on handfuls of pills, living in a seedy apartment surrounded by a strange mix of desperados.

Keely lives in the shadow of his father – a great man who died young but left a legacy of assertive compassion. And Keely, through his haze, realises he can invoke a glimmer of his father and bring about his own redemption by saving Kai, the boy who lives down the hall. Keely knows the boy’s need for salvation is greater than his own need for oblivion and isolation. But can Keely pull himself together long enough to do anything useful?  In many ways Keely is no better than the thugs he tries to protect Kai from – he too is a drug addict and pathetically unreliable. From his gelatinous soup of despair and desolation Keely has to somehow find the resolve to try again, one last time, for the sake of a boy. A stranger. Can he do it?

Eyrie is about many things – love, redemption, fear, loss, class, politics, environmentalism, the scars of childhood and the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Winton has a wonderful knack for combining Australian lingo and colloquialisms with achingly clever and absorbing description. For me, his is a uniquely Australian voice, and one that will be valued all the more as time passes. Who else is recording our voice in this way?

(Just as a side note, the only thing about Eyrie that bugged me was that some North American spelling is used. Why? In a book by an author who is the voice of Australia. Does it matter? To me it does.)

It is hard for me to review a book by Tim Winton. I don’t claim any sort of objectivity. Everyone who knows me knows that I happily hold Winton on a pedestal. For me, he can do no wrong. All my misgivings about the conventions of realism in literature fade away under the spell of his prose. And that’s just fine with me. In fact, I don’t want to ‘review’ this book at all. I just want to tell you I loved it, and hope you do too.

If you live on this planet, you can buy Eyrie just about anywhere.


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