First published 2013 by Penguin Group (Australia)
I read Tim Winton for the first time when I was fifteen, the book was An Open Swimmer, and shortly before reading Eyrie, I had another read to see if I could make head or tail of it this time round. But I am not sure that I did. There have always been parts of Winton’s books where I’m not really sure what is going on or what has happened, but I will continue to read him because I love his broken protagonists and his rich imagery and am as soothed by the sea and the bush as his characters are.
In Eyrie there is less of the bush than some of the other books I’ve read (Minimum of Two, Cloudstreet, Land’s Edge and Dirt Music) as the story is set in central Freemantle. The main character Tom Keely has separated from his wife, lost his job and is clinging to his sanity, while hiding from the world in a crummy flat on the top floor of a crummy high rise.
Enter Gemma Buck, a waif from his childhood who with her sister used to stay with the Keelys when the domestic violence at home got too bad. She is now living a couple doors down with her grandson Kai. Kai is a strange kid who’s seen too much and this is probably why he’s drawn to Keely.
No sooner is Kai on the scene when the tension moves up a notch, and the reader spends the rest of the book wondering whether this child will fall from the tenth floor or not. In the meantime Keely finds himself sucked into Gemma’s crap, but through trying to help her he finds enough goodness in himself to hang onto the shred of sanity he has. It is a gripping tale which keeps you turning pages, but suddenly it ends.
Now Winton has never been the kind of writer who wraps up everything neatly, but he gives us enough to figure out where the characters are heading when we close the book. At the end of Eyrie, we do find out the answer to the main question of whether Kai survives and what makes Gemma tick. However I thought Winton left a few too many questions unanswered this time. We are told what went wrong with the marriage but only get hints about what went wrong at work. We never find out how the wet patch got on the floor at the very start, and I was also wondering if it was just the pills fucking him up or was there something more sinister going on neurologically. Honestly, it reminded me of The Dark Half by Stephen King! And for goodness sake, does he ever wash his towel or what?