Tim Winton’s Breath is the kind of book that challenges your thinking about what it means to be a writer.
Winton’s prose flows like poetry, with immaculate meter and dialectal mastery. Breath makes me ashamed to say I’m a writer, because Winton is so good: I am not worthy. I have never been so profoundly affected by a book as I have by this one.
Bruce Pike is a paramedic who witnesses the aftermath of a boy who has suffocated. It brings back memories of his past, and he ruminates on his solitary life, his parents, his love of surfing and the sea, his friendships, his jealousies, his role models, his sexual coming of age, his breakdowns and how he finds himself again. Breath is a journey into a man’s scarred psyche: it’s about facing fear, the addictive adrenalin rush of near death experience, and the profound cost left in its wake when it fails. Breath is poignant, disturbing, and uplifting, all at the same time.
Breath is not for everyone. But I dare you to read it and not come away marveling at the writing. I will read Breath again; multiple times, no doubt.
And I’ll repeatedly wish I had one iota of Tim Winton’s talent.
PS I’m not giving up writing. This book sets a worthy benchmark to aim for. “Damn you, Tim Winton and your glorious writing!” Steve cried.