Word Wednesday: ‘Breath’ by Tim Winton

4 min readJan 16, 2020

This Week’s Word Is “Breath.”

Still not much non-fiction here at Word Wednesday towers, so, like last week, I thought I’d write about the fiction I’ve been reading. Breath by Tim Winton is not for parents who are faint of heart. It’s a meditation on teenage rebellion, and is fully capable of giving GeekDad readers sleepless nights.

In the latter stages, it also has strong sexual themes and probes into the devastating effects of abuse. I hesitate, therefore, to “recommend” the book, but Breath contains some lyrical writing that gently examines its difficult themes.

What Is Breath by Tim Winton?

I guess at its heart, it’s a coming of age story. Breath is a slender novel, coming in at under 300 pages with largeish print and plenty of page breaks. It tells the story of Bruce Pike, a teenager in small-town Australia during the late 60s. The novel opens with Bruce as an experienced hard-bitten paramedic, arriving at the scene of young teen found hanged. Suicide or something else? Bruce says something else, and begins to recount the story of his experiences, opening with how he met his crazy, daredevil friend, Loonie.

We know from the outset that SOMETHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Though when it does, it is perhaps not what we imagined at the start of Bruce’s story. The background of the story is surfing. Bruce and Loonie are drawn to the sea, and whilst there they meet Sando, an “aging” surfer (he’s in his mid-thirties!). At first, Sando is enigmatic and aloof but later takes the boys under his wing. But is this for their benefit or his own gratification?

Alongside this trio of surfers is Sando’s wife. Largely stuck in their ramshackle hippie-like abode, limping on a damaged knee. The story that unfolds centers around these four characters and their interactions will have deep ramifications for all of them.

Why Read Breath by Tim Winton?

I loved the first half of the book. Anybody who has read Cloudstreet or Dirt Music will know that Winton writes with a deft touch. He is very good at distilling the essence of Aussie life, and here this carries over into the lives of his teenaged characters and to surfing itself.


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