Review: Dirt Music, by Tim Winton

Fishing is central to the western Australian village of White Point, driving the economy and shaping social order.  Jim Buckridge is the best fisherman around, which affords him “big man on campus” status.  His partner, Georgie Jutland, ended up in White Point after chucking a nursing career and a failed relationship.  Their relationship is fragile: Jim mourns his first wife Debbie, who died of cancer, but he refuses to talk about it.  His young sons see Georgie as the evil stepmother.  Georgie stays up into the wee hours, drowning her sorrows in vodka.  It’s not surprising, then, when she discovers Luther Fox poaching fish in the dark of night and ends up in bed with him.

Well, OK, that was kind of surprising.  The chemistry between Georgie and Lu wasn’t well-developed, and her relationship with Jim still had life in it (that is, until she slept with Lu).  But Luther was an interesting character, a man forever scarred by the sudden tragic loss of his entire family.  I felt sorry for him, and wanted him to find love and happiness with Georgie.  Thus Tim Winton sets up the central conflict, “what will Georgie do?” and takes the reader along on her quest.  Along the way, he reveals tiny details that flesh out each man’s past.  What exactly happened to Luther’s family?  Why is Jim such a badass?  Why won’t he talk about Debbie, and what does he really want from Georgie?  Winton also brings the Western Australian landscape to life.  As someone completely unfamiliar with the geography and the flora and fauna, I kept a map close at hand and found  images of animals, trees, and birds to visualize the scenery.

While Winton was successful in drawing me into the story and it held my interest, it fell short of its potential.  Georgie’s character could have been developed more fully.  She was somewhat of a paradox: hard-edged and abrasive, but known for her caring and nursing skills.  Not the least bit concerned about fashion or makeup, and yet considered sexy.  It just didn’t add up.  Then, as the central conflict reached its climax, Winton placed his characters in a situation that struck me as far-fetched, and the resolution was just too neat to be believable.  Ah, well.

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7 thoughts on “Review: Dirt Music, by Tim Winton

  1. Our book group read this a few years ago when it came out and must say we agreed with your review of it. The ending, we thought was a bit over the top. But overall we did enjoy the book very much, mainly b/c of its setting and it generated an incredible amount of discussion. Pam

    • The ending was indeed “over the top,” wasn’t it Pam? But yes, the setting made me want to hop a plane to Australia as soon as possible. I could see this being a good book club book, because it would generate a lot of different opinions and that’s the real fun of a book group.

  2. I’m a Tim Winton fan; I’ve read The Turning (short stories), Breath, and Dirt Music. There’s something about his writing that puts me right there in Australia! It’s been a long while since I read Dirt Music so I’m a bit hazy on the ending right now. Apparently imdb.com says they are trying to make The Turning into a film hmm

      • Guess it might sit there for a while longer, while I have so many other great books calling for my attention, but appreciate reading an updated view on it, knowing its possibly not one of those “Why has this been on the shelf so long when its absolutely fantastic?” kind of books, like I discovered this summer with Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer. :)

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