Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eyrie by Tim Winton

Set in the Western Australia port city of Fremantle, Tim Winton's Eyrie is a gritty and tender novel about betrayal's toll on an idealist's spirit. I was hooked from the start by the distinctive internal voice of Tom Keely, a former environmental spokesperson wrecking himself with booze and prescription drugs.

"Well, the upside was he hadn't died in the night. He was free and unencumbered. Which is to say alone and unemployed. And he was in urgent need of a healing breakfast. Soon as all his bits booted up. Just give it a mo."
"The lift was mercifully empty. He travelled unseen and uninterrupted to the ground floor. Let the lobby doors roll back. Took it full in the face. All that hideous light. Walked out like a halfwit into a bushfire. It was hot enough to kill an asbestos sparrow."

Tom has been holed up for a year in a dive-y tenth floor apartment. His self-centered anguish finally shifts when he meets two of his neighbours who live on the same floor. Tom knew Gemma when they were both kids living on the same block. She and her sister used to take refuge at Tom's house when their father got violent. Now, Gemma has a daughter in prison and she is caring for her 6-year-old grandson, Kai.

Gemma and Kai are facing deep trouble from some scary folk. The question is whether Tom can help himself, never mind anyone else.

It was smart of me to buy a gift copy of Eyrie for my friend Kathy, because this is a great book for discussion. Winton's storycrafting is impeccable and the ending is left open. There are all kinds of important issues like social justice, natural resources extraction, and class privilege. Kathy and I spent an hour on the phone talking about Eyrie last night. Winton will be at the Vancouver Writers Fest in October and we both look forward to hearing him there.

Readalikes: The Antagonist (Lynn Coady); The Painter (Peter Heller); and Carpentaria (Alexis Wright).

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