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The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton. Book review

July 12, 2018

Book cover of The Shepherd's Hut. Picture of boy looking out over vast salt plain

Jaxie Clackton has endured a life dominated by unjust and cruel punishment by his father. With his beloved mother dead, all he wants to do is run away to the only person Jaxie feels understands him. But in order to get to them Jaxie must cross the harsh saltlands of Western Australia. Then a freak event forces Jaxie to go on the run.

There is no doubt that Tim Winton is an author for whom every new book is keenly anticipated by a large following, making a fresh emergence of his writing into the world something of an event.

This is no less a case for The Shepherd’s Hut which doesn’t disappoint, in terms of brilliant prose, evoking the further reaches of rural Australia, and a main protagonist who stays with you long after the book’s end.

Although consistency might be comforting to some, allowing the reader to luxuriate in a story that is well within their comfort zone is not Winton’s way and you’re never sure what you’re going to get in terms of voice and perspective. This is particularly the case with The Shepherd’s Hut where we hear the story directly from Jaxie in his vernacular. The very ordinary way in which Jaxie expresses himself becomes something extraordinary under Winton’s curation. It is this chameleon-like ability to render a story with different approaches which fascinates me about this particular author’s craft, because it makes each book feel fresh.

If the novel does not have universal appeal it will be because it is an emotionally gruelling read as the matter of fact delivery works through the injustices of Jaxie’s life, but more as a way of explanation rather than an attempt for sympathy.

Although the story is rendered in the type of prose which has the potential to make the story a quick and effortless read, I had to keep putting the book down to take a break because of its raw intensity. The narrative really puts you through the emotional wringer.

But taking time to work through the narrative also allows you to really want to get to grips with how Winton makes words work so hard with apparently so little effort. So it’s probably a good idea to first just read and enjoy the story and the myriad of emotions it evokes, then go back in and relish a wordsmith at work, revelling in a prose that is glorious poetry.

The Shepherd’s Hut was courtesy of Picador.

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From → Book Review, Literary

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