The Turning  by Tim Winton

‘But, you know, all the big things hurt, the things you remember. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not important.’

This book contains seventeen linked short stories, set in the fictional whaling town of Angelus in Western Australia. These stories feature ordinary people struggling with life and responsibility, each trying to find their own place, grappling with life, actions, and consequences.

The Lang family feature in nine of these stories. Most of our view is through the eyes of Vic, as an adolescent and a young man, then as a husband and father. These shifts in chronology and perspective enable us to see the individual, his family, and his community. And then there are the stories featuring the bully Max Leaper and his wife Raelene, and the young Max with his brother.

As I read these stories, I feel like I know these people. I don’t like some of their choices and I wonder how they will survive some of them, but I recognise the gaps between ambition, dream, and reality. The stories are frequently bleak and depressing: exposing addiction, corruption, and domestic violence.

While I enjoyed each of the stories, I have two favourites: ‘Small Mercies’ and ’Boner McPharlin’s Moll’. In both stories, the characters stepped off the page and into my head.

This book was first published in 2004. Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith