cover image Eyrie


Tim Winton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (432p) ISBN 978-0-374-151348

Tom Keely, the 40-something central figure in Winton’s (Breath) beautifully written powerful ninth novel, is in the throes of a midlife crisis: once a well-known environmental activist, now he’s a “middle-class casualty,” sacked from his job and self-destructing, while the world crumbles around him . The setting is Freemantle, a port city near Perth, Australia (“Freo” in Aussie slang), Keely’s hometown. Freo, and Australia as a whole, are case studies in how greed and corruption at the government level, and crime and drug dealing at the community level, can tear the fabric of the a town. Keely finds a measure of salvation in Gemma Buck, a childhood friend now stocking shelves in a supermarket and taking care of her grandson Kai. The preternaturally innocent six-year-old boy brings Keely back from the brink, and the trio form an unlikely (but laudable) family. Winton slowly reveals Keely’s backstory, but what intrigues is the main storyline—Keely’s journey, with Gemma and Kai, through Freo’s lower-class underbelly—as well as the prose. He’s an absurdly good writer, with not only the proverbial eye for detail but also a facility for rendering each detail in an original way. Winton is ambitious; this is a state-of-the-nation novel about a world run amok. Keely is argumentative, but the book as a whole is not. Winton’s use of Australian vernacular will be a challenge to many American readers, but it will be a challenge well worth taking: this is a fascinating, thought-provoking book. (June)