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.