He sings until he's hoarse, until he wonders whether the tree isn't bending him now, if he's the singer or the sung.
Dirt Music, published in 2001, is one of many award winning novels by Australian novelist Tim Winton. It is a story about the outback, isolation, and like all good books, self-discovery.
The story begins with 40 year old Georgie Jutland. She finds herself married to Jim Buckridge, the most respected local fisherman. After three years she still cannot fill the shoes of his dead wife to him or his two kids. Her own nursing career is all but forgotten as she surfs the internet and indulges in vodka. She is hurt and dejected when one of the kids calls her stepmother.
Her life changes when she meets Luther Fox, an outcast poacher. Instead of reporting him to her husband she finds herself strangely attracted to him and ends up unraveling his story in an effort to rediscover who she is.
The result is an exciting ride for the reader torn between what they want for Georgie and the reality of the seemingly hopelessness of her and Lu's love. White Point, a fictional town, is painted through the rumors and harsh attitudes of the townsfolk there. Great detail has been paid to characterization – many of the characters are only spoken but they retain surprising complexity and vividness. Jim Buckridge speaks rarely and never directly about his feelings and so we learn to speculate just as Georgie as forced to. Other minor characters are introduced but behave in ways not directly related to the main story to enhance realism but also to show the affect White Point has on everyone who goes there.
The story is told alternating from Georgie and Luther's perspective as their lives intertwine occasionally. Georgie's is told so close to the bone it could be first person. Fox is told in a detached and masculine style, as if he is being described from Georgie's perspective. This enhances his mystery while maintaining a clear focus on Georgie as the main protagonist of the novel.
Tim Winton's style is subtle enough that you don't feel like your reading an English text but meaty enough that you are given plenty to dwell on during the course of the book. The prose is kept intentionally dry with intermittent warmth to mimic its subject matter. Poems are intertwined into the text for those wanting a bit more intellectual food. And as I mentioned earlier there are also numerous side characters whose footmark in the book is more symbolic than plot related, characters that have their own lives that you tune into like a radio.
I'm sure you can tell I greatly enjoyed Dirt Music. The only faults I can name was that I found the ending to be a bit weak, and the speech is written without quotation marks. The latter I found an interesting technique but ultimately unsuccessful due to the confusion it occasionally causes. A perfect book for bush escapism.
- Winner - 2002 Miles Franklin Literary Award
- Winner - 2002 W.A. Premier's Award - Book of the Year
- Winner - 2002 W.A. Premier's Award - Fiction
- Winner - 2002 Christina Stead Award, N.S.W. Premier's Literary Award
- Winner - 2001 goodreading Award - Readers Choice Book of the Year
- Shortlisted - Braille Book of the Year
- Shortlisted - 2001 Book Data/ABA Book of the Year Award