Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A Novel for Australia Day "Cloudstreet" by Tim Winton (audiobook) read by Peter Hosking
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.