Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Novel for Australia Day "Cloudstreet" by Tim Winton (audiobook) read by Peter Hosking

I finished listening to the audiobook of Cloudstreet on my walk this afternoon.  I am struggling to find enough superlatives to do my feelings for this story justice.  I have read three other books by Tim Winton and really enjoyed them all, especially "The Riders", which is one of my all time favourite novels.

Cloudstreet is such an Australian story if there is such a thing.  It covers twenty years in the lives of two families from Western Australia, the Lambs and the Pickles, from the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s.  The families, both looking for a better life, move from small towns in WA to Perth where Sam Pickle has inherited an enormous ramshackle house on Cloudstreet.  The Lambs become the Pickles live in tenants in the cavernous house. 

Two more different families would be hard to imagine. Sam and Dolly Pickle are both hapless dreamers.  Sam is a gambler and Dolly an alcoholic.  Their children for much of the time are left to raise themselves.  The Lambs are God fearing, very hard working folk.  Both families bring more than their fair share of tragedy and hardship to the house.

The children of Sam and Dolly Pickle and Oriel and Lester Lamb grow up in Cloudstreet.  They combat poverty, disability and their parents' demons to try and make their way in a country that is also finding its identity at the time.  Winton does a wonderful job of combining a clear sense of what is happening in Australia at the time socially, with the personal stories and struggles of his characters.

For me Tim Winton is that rare thing, an author who marries truly beautiful writing with exceptional plotting and character development.  He is my favourite Australian author.  It was an absolute treat to listen to this story.  And if any of you are wanting to read (or listen to) a superbly written novel that is distinctly Australian I don't think you could do better than Cloudstreet.  The word that comes to mind to describe Cloudstreet best is a word that I don't think I have used before in a post because it can sound so naff and nauseating.   Cloudstreet is genuinely heartwarming.  I have met these wonderful, ordinary characters and I feel uplifted and the richer for it.


  1. I love Cloudstreet. Tim Winton is one of my favourite Aussie Authors, (the first being Honey Brown). Breath was by far the best book I read in 2009.

  2. I actually find it really hard to enjoy Tim Winton. I enjoyed Breath but have never enjoyed any of his other books. I have Cloudstreet, but I have never been able to finish it, it always just seems a bit... something. I think that the writing is so complex for me that in some way it prevents me from accessing the story. Listening to it in audiobook though might be a way of attempting to overcome that problem, I will definitely think about it.

  3. MZ - I really enjoyed Breath too. It had a different feel to it again. I look forward to reading all of Winton's work at some stage.

    Becky - I appreciate your comment. I feel the same way about the complexity of Peter Carey's writing I think. I can get through it but it feels like hard work. You get alot more out of Carey than I seem to be able to. The audiobook experience definitely increased by enjoyment of Cloudstreet. Having said that I don't think his other novels are at all like Cloudstreet. My favourite (that I read not listened to) is The Riders. The Riders is even more symbolic and trippy than Breath or Cloudstreet, so be warned, but I just loved it.

  4. Thanks for this review; I had never heard of this author, and I love finding new writers!
    I'm intrigued by your observation that this is a great representation of Australian fiction, as I don't think I have read anything that would fit that description. I'm off to check this one out, and I will take your suggestion to look for the audioversion.

  5. Thanks for stopping by BG! I can't wait to learn what you think of Cloudstreet. It is well written, a great story, and has a very Austrlaian feel. Think I mean that the characters are very Australian, it takes place throughout a very changeable time in Australia's history and it givesa a wonderful sense of place.


Comments are very welcome.