This blog is dedicated to the amazing staff at the New Canaan Public Library in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Breath by Tim Winton, 2009, * * * *

In Breath, Tim Winton, evokes an adolescence spent resisting complacency, testing one's limits against nature, finding like-minded souls, and discovering just how far one breath will take you. It is a story of extremes--extreme sports and extreme emotions. On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrill-seeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. Together they form an odd but elite trio. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan ethos, a regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. Their mentor's past is forbidden territory and his American wife's peculiar behavior indicates an unknown illness, possibly physical or mental.  Winton excels at conveying the shadowy side of his country's beauty, the way even the most ordinary landscape can exert a paralyzing hold.  Tim Winton is the prolific Australian author of nine novels, three short-story collections, six children's books, and three nonfiction books.   This novel is a paean to surfing but it treats elemental themes of fear and friendship, loneliness and boredom, the lure and danger of life lived intensely, and the broken promises of adolescence sliding into middle age.  The sensitivities and vulnerabilities of adolescence are depicted here with deft and painful accuracy.