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Savouring an Australian Platter

Sugata Bhaduri

By Tim Winton
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2004, pp. 426, Rs. 395.00

By Kate Grenville
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2004, pp. 404, Rs. 395.00

By Peter Goldsworthy
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2004, pp. 345, Rs. 350.00


Though coming across contemporary Australian literature may not be as much of a novelty as it was even a few years back, it is commendable that Penguin Books India has chosen to republish some very popular recent novels from Australia and make them easily and affordably available to Indian readers. I review here three such novels, written within a span of twelve years, and with three very different themes.   Cloudstreet is the Australian writer Tim Winton’s fifth novel, and is the winner of the Deo Gloria Award, the Miles Franklin Award and the Banjo Prize. The storyline seems fairly simple. Sam Pickles has a modest rural life of mining guano for nitrate, but tragedy befalls him as he loses his hand in an accident. Fortunately, the Pickles family inherits an old and huge house, called Cloudstreet, in a suburb of Perth, where they shift and start their urban odyssey. The problem that they do not have any money is solved with the sudden arrival of the Lamb family, who are fleeing their own rural past, and whom the Pickles accept as boarders. The two families are studies in contrast. The Lambs are hard-working and God-fearing, while the Pickles are just the reverse: Sam Pickles is a usually unlucky gambler, and his wife is mostly drunk and often adulterous. Both the families, still recovering from their past, discover to their initial chagrin that they have to spend their whole lives together in this strange old house called Cloudstreet, and start their lives afresh. The Lambs open a successful grocery store on the first floor of the house, and the two families’ lives become woven into each other, with the house Cloudstreet becoming the real binding force. The novel shows how for twenty years, from 1944 to 1964, the two families shout and fight, and yet slowly form a strange bond of love and acceptance between themselves. And all this while the old hoary Cloudstreet transforms from a strange eerie alien house to a warm home for all.   While the plot seems fairly simple, it is the treatment that makes the novel great. The house Cloudstreet is itself made the centrepiece of the novel. It is not just an old inanimate building, but a place almost personified with memories of its own, peopled with its own shadows and spirits, so much so that it is actually a house that cracks its knuckles. The ...

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