Cloudstreet – Tim Winton

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 Winner of the Miles Franklin Award 1992

Cloudstreet is described as an Australian classic and I was really looking forward to reading my first Tim Winton novel, but I’m afraid I was a little bit disappointed.

The book follows two working class families who are forced to live together in the same large house in a suburb of Perth. Set over a thirty year period, beginning in the 1930s, it started off well, building up each character vividly, but by about 100 pages in I was beginning to lose interest. The story was too gentle for me and although the writing was beautiful I found myself becoming bored.

The large number of characters further distanced me from the emotions of each individual. The plot was slow and rambling, focusing on minute details of their lives. I’m sure that a lot of people will love this, but I prefer a bit more action in my books.

The ending of the book was also a bit strange – it just seemed to stop, without tying up many lose ends. I felt as though my book was lacking the last few chapters. I don’t mind ambiguous endings, but this didn’t even seem to do that. It was a bit like the ending of Sea of Poppies in that respect, but at least we are expecting a sequel for that.

Another problem I had was that I found some of the Australian dialect difficult to understand and this was further hampered by the large number of Australian slang words used.

Overall, I can see why Australians adore this book, but I’m afraid it was too gentle for me.

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Tim Winton is the only author to win the Miles Franklin award 4 times and I am still interested in reading his other books.

Have you read any of them?

Which is the best?


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18 Comments

  1. WordLily says:

    This is the only Winton book I’ve read. I may read more in the future, but I’ve not rushed out to get the rest of his books yet.

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m sure I will read more of his books at some point, but I’m in no rush.

  2. Sandy says:

    I’ve not read any from this author. But I have read books where it just seemed the author ran out of steam at the end, and is a pretty big letdown. I will trust you on this one!

    1. Jackie says:

      I think you’d probably find this OK, but there are a lot of better books out there.

  3. Steph says:

    I read this for my book club about 2 years ago… everyone liked it, but I remember it took us all a looooong time to get through it. I think it painted a good picture of Australia and the mentality of the people there (hard-working, resilient, etc.,), and I liked the personal story it told. I think it was helpful for all of us to have an Aussie in our group who was able to help us understand how certain themes/ideas are influential, as this is a book that is taught in most of the schools there. Plus she was able to explain the Aussie slang for us! ;)

    I just finished reading a book by Winton a few days ago (Breath), and I’ll be reviewing it very soon, so keep out an eye for that over at my blog! In one important sense, it was the complete opposite of Cloudstreet for me, because while it took me weeks to finish Cloudstreet, I read Breath all in one day! Still has a lot of slang, but I just went with it and didn’t let it bog me down!

    I also have The Riders sitting in the TBR pile, but not sure when I’ll get to it. I think Winton is an author I like reading and would keep reading more of (I enjoy how vivid a picture of Australia he paints for me), but he isn’t my favorite author of all time or anything like that.

    1. Jackie says:

      It does take a while to read this book. It is quite long and the pace is so slow.

      I agree that this book does a great job in showing what life is like for Australians and I think discussing this at a book group with Australians present would really help me to appreciate it a bit better.

      I tried not to become bogged down with the slang, but it was hard sometimes.

      I’m not surprised to learn that they study this in school. I’m sure it is packed with hidden symbolism which went over my head. It is beautifully written, but I need entertaining, before I start to uncover the underlying messages.

      I’m pleased to learn that Breath is a faster read. I’m sure I’ll get round to it one day.

  4. Karen says:

    I know many of my country people love and rave about this book but I have to say I am one Australian that just didn’t get this one at all! I’m not sure if I even finished it when I attempted to read it ages ago?? One of my favourite books though is Dirt Music by Tim Winton – completely different to Cloudstreet in my opinion and much more enjoyable for me!

    1. Jackie says:

      It is quite reassuring to hear that an Australian didn’t love this book. I almost gave up at one point, but something captured my attention again, so I managed to finish it.

      It is good to know that Dirt Music is very different – I will pick it up one day.

  5. Simon S says:

    Oh I nearly picked this up at the weekend in the depths of Shropshire am glad I didn’t even if it was only 50p!

    I really enjoyed Breath though its not a book I would ever have normally picked up, I don’t like surfing for one! I thought it was brilliantly written and like Steph read it in a day.

    1. Jackie says:

      He is a talented writer, but the plot of Cloudstreet was just to normal for me.

      I’m not into surfing, so will be interested to see what I think of Breath.

  6. Violet says:

    Never heard of this book. I don’t think I will even give it a try, there are so many better books out there.

    1. Jackie says:

      I think that is a good plan!

  7. Beth F says:

    From your review and the comments, I’m getting the idea that I shouldn’t ignore this author but that I should perhaps start on different book. I wonder how this book would be in audio? Although audio would cure the abrupt ending.

    1. Jackie says:

      I think you might like this book, as you seem to appreciate gentle plots as long as the writing is of good quality. I don’t think this would work well on audio, although perhaps it would help with the dialect. Not sure – let me know if you try!

  8. JoAnn says:

    Winton is an author I really want to try, but I’ve heard other comments like yours about this novel…so have been putting it off. Perhaps I should try Dirt Music instead?

    1. Jackie says:

      Perhaps? I don’t know. The others have said Breath is really quick to read. Maybe that would be the best? It is hard to say withour having read them.

  9. megan says:

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this :( I feel responsible!!

    Cloudstreet is definitely not my favourite Winton novel (that would be The Riders), but it’s generally accepted as being his classic, and it was certainly his ‘breakthrough’ book. There is a sense of whimsy/magical realism in this book (as there is in one of his other earlier novels, That Eye the Sky), that is missing from his later novels which has always confused me a little.

    It is very ‘Australian’ (and his Australian voice in all his writing is very strong), but I think it’s a great picture of a particular period in the country’s history.

    I think you should definitely give Breath a go – it’s nowhere near as gentle :D

    1. Jackie says:

      Don’t worry – I have always wanted to read a Tim Winton book – you just persuaded me to read this one. I’m still pleased I read it and will give Breath a try one day.

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