Brian Matthews reviews 'Island Home' by Tim Winton

Brian Matthews reviews 'Island Home' by Tim Winton

Island Home: A Landscape Memoir

by Tim Winton

Hamish Hamilton, $39.99 hb, 239 pp, 9781926428741

Tim Winton's island home seethes and rings, whispers and beckons with sheer life. It tantalises through shreds of memories and phantom histories turned to stone or engraved in ocean-scored rocks and remote caves. Like William Blake's 'green and pleasant land', it is compromised but offers 'a World in a grain of sand / And a Heaven in a wild flower'. His isle, like Prospero's, is 'full of noises / Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight ...' Before his youthful gaze, as he sat on a surfboard 'waiting for the next set', the natural world revealed itself, '... a sea-shore, now I saw it clearly, was a live system. And so was a creek, a coastal heath, a forest. Even a blunt dolerite cliff was somehow in motion, under power, subject to endless force. This experience of nature as 'somehow in motion' irresistibly recalls Wordsworth rowing the stolen boat on the lake when

a huge peak, black and huge
As if with voluntary power instinct
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me.

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Published in November 2015, no. 376
Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the author of short stories, essays, and biographies. He was a weekly columnist for the Weekend Australian Magazine (1997–2001) and has been a monthly columnist for Eureka Street since 1997. His memoir A Fine and Private Place (2000) won the inaugural Queensland Premier’s Award for non-fiction and his Manning Clark: A Life (2008) won the National Biography Award in 2010.