On the other hand, the main character (Scully) was frustrating beyond words, especially as the book progressed. In essence, this novel is not really about Scully's search for his missing wife. The story takes the reader through Scully's journey of madness, and his spiral into the abyss of illogical behavior and a severely emotional reaction to his wife's choice not to come home. One of the best part of the books is the character development of the 7 year old daughter, Billie.
Actually, the story and Wintons writing stayed not on the shelf but in the back of my mind, playing out at unexpected times. In 2009, with The Riders yet rambling in my mind, I picked up Breath, Wintons then new publication and became hooked. And the story after 15 years of quiet reflection and a second reading is clearly more than a journey in search of a disappeared wife.
Fred Scully known simply as Scully is renovating the dilapidated cottage in rural Ireland he and his wife Jennifer have bought on a whim at what was supposed to be the end of two years of living in Europe. Devastated and increasingly out of control, Scully takes Billie with him to Greece, then to Paris and to Amsterdam, desperate to find his wife and to understand what has happened. Scully is an unattractive, but intelligent and caring man who worked as a labourer in London, Paris and Greece so that Jennifer could pursue her dream of becoming an artist or writer. That Scully (and the reluctant Billie) are drawn into the Wild Hunt is made clear from other references in the text the sight of gypsy boys riding horses bareback seen through the window of a train, the sound of horses hooves on a street in Amsterdam when Scully is at his most unraveled. Having seen the Wild Hunt in Ireland, Scully is drawn into it and becomes one of the Riders in his mad trek across Europe trying to find Jennifer. This work is less tied to landscape than much of Wintons other writing, although his descriptions of Ireland, of the Greek island of Hydra, of Paris and Amsterdam are important parts of the narrative.
The start of the book is about how Scully sets to, renovating a semi ruined croft in Ireland while his wife goes back to Australia to sell off their house and pack up their possessions. Yes, countries, because after the even at the airport, Scully starts roaming Europe, looking for his wife so Winton takes us to quite a few other countries.
His wife, Jennifer, whos pregnant with their second child, is in Australia with their 7 year-old daughter, Billie, typing loose ends for their planned move to Ireland. Scully gets more and more desperate, chasing women on the street who look like Jennifer, while Billie, devoted to her father, doesnt particularly want her mother back. Whether she ever loved Scully is unclear, but during what he sees as a romantic period of living in Europe, with Scully working on house renovations with other illegals to get them money, Jennifers been seeking out more sophisticated friends, artists and writers and wannabes like herself.
The entire book is ONE...BIG...TEASE!!! ;-) I grew increasingly exasperated with this book the deeper I got into it. Tim Winton plants seeds of mystery and spookiness and never brings any of them to fruition. He makes such a big deal about Scully's vision of "the riders" early in the book.
Before you know it you are drawn into its world and Scully's journey through Europe, his little daughter tagging at hand, through the extremes of anticipation, search and heartbreak. His search through every possible place he knows his wife could be takes him not only through Europe, but also through an inner journey the reader will identify with, and feel its heartbreak, the falsity of illusions.
This was very much a book about the journey rather than the destination and Winton, with his wonderful knack for language, kept me riveted the whole time.
It begins with Scully, an Australian with the face of "an axe-murderer, a sniffer of bicycle seats", fixing up a cottage in the sticks in southern Ireland, waiting for his wife Jennifer and their 7-year old daughter Billie to join him. Who in their right mind would want to live in a primitive cottage with no electricity and an outhouse? Through some very hazy reasoning, Scully decides against contacting the authorities and instead drags his traumatized daughter on a wild goose chase across Europe. For some reason the family has been living in Greece, Paris and London, and Scully the bicycle-seat-sniffer traces their steps expecting to find Jennifer simply by grabbing uncomprehending Greeks by the collar and yelling "where is she?!". I'm a big girl and I've been around the literary block a few times, so I knew not to expect answers and a neatly wrapped ending from a book like this.
His second book, Shallows, won the Miles Franklin Award in 1984. In 1995 Wintons novel, The Riders, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, as was his 2002 book, Dirt Music. He has won many other prizes, including the Miles Franklin Award three times: for Shallows (1984), Cloudstreet (1992) and Dirt Music (2002).