Dirt Music by Tim Winton

Reviewed by
November 2001, no. 236
Brian McFarlane reviews 'Dirt Music' by Tim Winton

Dirt Music

by Tim Winton

Picador, $45 hb, 461 pp, 0330363239

Dirt Music by Tim Winton

Reviewed by
November 2001, no. 236

Talk about unlikely associations. My first response to the opening chapter of Tim Winton’s latest novel was how its sense of a life at a standstill, awaiting some new impulse, reminded me of Jane Austen’s Emma. Winton’s protagonist, Georgie Jutland, with a string of unsatisfactory relationships behind her and bored with her present bloke, Jim Buckridge, her useful life as a nurse now well in the past, sits in front of the computer screen, ‘gone in her seat, like a pensioner at the pokies’. In White Point, the Western Australian ‘personality junkyard’ where she has fetched up, she needs a stimulus (‘recently something in her had leaked away’) as urgently as Austen’s heroine. In both novels, it comes in the form of a new man. After this, it must be said, Dirt Music isn’t much like Emma and it certainly settles for a less conservative dénouement, but the underlying narrative starter has this echo.

Another inapt association. Georgie is forty and unanchored: for the life of me, I couldn’t get Helen Mirren out of my head as I read. Even when I read later that Georgie has a short black helmet-like haircut, it couldn’t displace the image of the tough, intelligent Mirren-type sexiness. (The opposite process, perhaps, from never being able to re-read Women in Love without seeing the film’s black-haired Oliver Reed as the Nordic god, Gerald.) However, the resonance isn’t unhelpful as the wayward Georgie gradually accretes a Mirrenish determination to shape events rather than just let them happen to her.

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Dirt Music' by Tim Winton

Dirt Music

by Tim Winton

Picador, $45 hb, 461 pp, 0330363239

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