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Dirt Music: A Novel Paperback – May 13, 2003

4 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Arguably one of the finest of all Australian novelists, Tim Winton shows that he remains in top form with Dirt Music, a wistful, charged, ardent novel of female loss and amatory redemption. The setting is Winton's favorite: the thorn-bushed, sheep-farmed, sun-punished boondocks of Western Australia. The cast is limited but spirited: the two chief protagonists are Georgie Jutland, a fortysomething adoptive mother with a vodka problem, and Luther Fox, a brooding, feral, bushwhacking poacher.

The plot is something else altogether: an elegantly wearied, cleverly finessed mutual odyssey that opts to follow the sometimes intertwining, sometimes diverging lives of poor Georgie and Luther as they try to deal with the odd alliance they comprise, as well as the complex and fractured lives they want to leave behind. The way Georgie deals with her unwitting inheritance of two dissatisfied adopted kids is particularly touching, poignant, and well written.

Best of all, though, is the prose. Somehow it manages to be simultaneously juicy and dry, like a desert cactus. This is especially true when Winton touches on the scented harshness of the Down Under outback: "the music is jagged and pushy and he for one just doesn't want to bloody hear it, but the outbursts of strings and piano are as austere and unconsoling as the pindan plain out there with its spindly acacia and red soil." This is a wise and accomplished novel. --Sean Thomas, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The stunning new narrative by Australian writer Winton (The Riders, nominated for the Booker), a tale of three characters' perilous journey into the Australian wilderness in efforts to escape and atone for their pasts, may just be his breakthrough American publication. At 40, Georgie Jutland, former nurse, inveterate risk-taker, incipient alcoholic and lifelong rebel against her prominent family, has moved in with widowed lobster fisherman Jim Buckridge, "the uncrowned prince" of the western seaside community of White Point. Although Georgie devotes herself to Jim's two young sons, their relationship is uneasy and somehow empty. When she's drawn to shamateur (fish poacher) Luther Fox, who breaks the law to keep his mind from tragic memories, the lives of all three begin to unravel. Lu, the lone survivor of a disreputable family of musicians who specialized in dirt music (country blues), is a memorable character, vulnerable and appealing despite his many flaws. When the White Point community resorts to violence against him, he heads into the tropic wilderness of Australia's northern coast, and the plot begins to challenge CBS's Survivor. With masterly economy and control, Winton unfurls a story of secrets, regrets and new beginnings. His prose, sprinkled with regional vernacular, combines cool dispassion and lyric concision. Geography and landscape are palpable elements: as the narrative progresses, the atmosphere shifts from the austere monotony of a seacoast battered by wind into spectacular gorge country, the bare desolation of the desert and the terrible heat of the tropics. But it's each character's inner landscape that Winton authoritatively traverses with his unerring map of the heart.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (May 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743228480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743228480
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If Cloudstreet could be considered as a contender for the'Great Australian Novel' then Dirt Music is something more. Yet it is no less a novel that explores where we as Australians feel at home. Winton creates yet another beautiful male character in Luther Fox, whose attachment to the earth is multifaceted. He hears its resonances in the dirt music he plays and in the ocean where he is comfortable and then most powerfully in his journey north through Western Australia.
This novel is a love story that tests boundaries. Georgie, the female protagonist inspires many emotions in us, but we are admire her determination in following Luther and 'saving' him.
Underscoring this is winton's magical evoction of place and the rhythyms of the land. Most interestingly of all you can buy the double CD that acts as a soundtrack that underscores the necessity of music in our lives. We are lucky when we get a double dose - Winton's words with the music he believes best reflects what he is saying. Beautiful!
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Format: Hardcover
"Dirt Music" is more than just a story about a tangled relationship between Georgie Jutland, Jim Buckridge and Luther Fox, it's also a journey to uncover the ghosts of their past. It's a story that is well-written by Tim Winton, without being too artificial or too practical. Sensitive without being soppy; practical without being mechanical.
Through the bleak landscape of Western Australia, we learn that protagonists also have weaknesses and the 'bad' guys also have their own reasons to behave the way they do. This is the reason why I can identify with the characters and understand the way they behave. Having lived in Australia for some years also makes me recognize the 'aussieness' of this novel - it seeps through every sentence that is written: how the locals are afraid of the Asian invasion; how men are suppposed to be men; and many more little themes that are included within the novel. The book is also seasoned with Australian cheekiness and humour which makes it a delight to read - however, that doesn't mean that the book is a trivial read. Tim Winton brings us to scenes and makes us breathe in the surrounding, stand and witness whatever that is happening in the following pages.
I heartily recommend this book to those who want to visit Western Australia, and to read how each character deals with the ghosts of their past. A great read - full stop.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel hummed to me in such a strong voice, I found myself slowing down my pace in order to relish the experience. There is something intriguing about Australia, almost a mirror image of the United States but dramatically different. As in Dermot Bolger's "Father's Music," the music metaphor and its connection to the people in the story makes it almost a character in itself. The descriptions of the land are so vivid, you almost feel the dust in your throat. But what made this book soar for me was its ruminations on the nature of love. Not romantic love, but love warts and all -- the lost love of a man for his family, the lessening of love between a man and a woman, the complicated love a woman feels for her own highly dysfunctional siblings. I recommend this book, without any reservation.
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Format: Hardcover
Tim Winton has an indisputable gift for language; seldom will you find more cleverly turned phrases or richer metaphors and similes, but "Dirt Music" is ultimately too opaque and self-indulgent. The language remains rich, but the story loses its way and the last 100 pages seem more the ramblings of a sunstruck psychedelic than an eloquent writer with a compelling story to tell. Most of the action takes place in the close-knit Western Australia fishing village of White Point, which is populated by characters who have a spiritual kinship to a dozen of Steinbeck's. Georgie Jutland, a well-traveled, well-worn forty-something ex-nurse from a dysfunctional family, is adrift in a brackish pool of indecision about her life and which man she wants to devote it to. Jim Buckridge, a stoic, widowed father of two young sons, stands tall and straight among them-a master fisherman and a strong, silent type who Georgie pities more than loves. Luther (Lu) Fox is a poacher of the first water whose crippled psyche draws Georgie like cat hair to a black sweater. But the Foxes are outcasts in this rough and tumble community while the Buckridges are its respected pillars. When the inevitable triangle forms, Lu is victimized in a particularly cruel way and Georgie is cast into a limbo darker than any she's ever known. Lu departs and Georgie's live-in relationship with Jim and his boys is flayed and filleted. Winton's long description of Lu's journey then not only leads the story off the beaten track, but off the track altogether. After forty or fifty pages of that, I no longer cared what happened to any of the characters.
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Format: Paperback
I found this an enjoyable read. The subject matter interested me - dealing with grief and mid-life relationship crisis. I liked the setting and felt he evoked the landscape superbly. He also captured small town, insular Australia exceptionally well in the few characters drawn from the locale. Georgie's role as an outsider in her wealthy family rang true.
Actually the sum of the parts rang more true for me than when it was put together. The idea of the grand passion coming at a time when she was adrift emotionally was good. The hurt of the young boys which isolated her within the domestic setting was achingly poignant. Small town politics and the dynamics of Jim's place in a power structure was interesting and not something I can recall having read much of in the past, especially with respect to my own culture (Australian).
However, I found the last part of the book troublesome, and I think it disintegrated once the action moved to the remote island. I found it unbelievable and a bit of a Survivor / Boys Own Adventure stretch of the imagination.
Winton is a fluid writer - I didn't find the prose clumsy, cliched or contrived, I didn't cringe at all as I all too often find myself doing these days. I reckon there's a great book inside here wanting to get out. I read that Winton was ages behind on deadline for delivery of this, and seemed to be blocked. I read he had a whole different book written, which he scrapped and then wrote this almost in one go. I think it shows.
I am going to seek out some more of Winton's work, because I think he's a skilled writer, exploring some themes I find interesting, and his settings wonderful, and I have read better Winton books than this - Cloudsteet, and children's books The Deep and The Bugalugs Bum Thief .
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