BreathBreath by Tim Winton
on May 27th 2008
Pages: 218
ISBN: 0374116342
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Set in Western Australia, Breath is about a man, Bruce who is a paramedic who is looking back on his life – specifically when he was a teenager and he and his friend, Loonie used to dare each other to do dangerous things. First their stunts take place in a river near where they live then they take to surfing. There they meet and older surfer, named Sandor who also likes taking risks. Sandor grudgingly at first takes them under his wing and soon the boys and Sandor are a trio hitting the waves. They like to push themselves, to test their limits, to take dangerous chances, to engage in unsafe behavior. Throw in Sandor’s wife, Eva who has her own issues and doesn’t like being left alone while her husband is out surfing.

I wont say much more so as to not give away too much but can I say, I thought this book was just about boys learning to surf and pushing themselves past their limits – but it’s about so much more than that. It’s a coming of age tale but also it is about the choices we make and how those choices follow us throughout our lives. This book is also about taking risks, the endorphin rush of doing extreme things, making discoveries, relationships, friendship, choices, dangerous behavior and growing up.

The title is quite clever as the book touches on breathing in many ways: the boys trying to hold their breath under water for 2 minutes until they see stars, Bruce’s father’s snoring where Bruce observes his father doesn’t breath between snores, auto-erotic asphyxiation, having the air knocked out of you by a wave, etc.

With the Australia vernacular and description of the waves and Ocean this is a very atmospheric book. The book is also beautifully written with vivid description of surfing and the Ocean. I can almost smell the sea air!