Eyrie: A Novel

by Tim Winton

Hardcover, 2014




Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2014), 432 pages


Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely, a man who's lost his bearings in middle age and is now holed up in a flat at the top of a grim highrise, looking down on the world he's fallen out of love with. He's cut himself off, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman he used to know when they were kids, and her introverted young boy. The encounter shakes him up in a way that he doesn't understand. Despite himself, Keely lets them in. What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times, funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting, populated by unforgettable characters. It asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

Library's review

Winton has become my favorite Australian author. His novels are always deep and rich with social consciousness and lovable, if flawed, characters, immersed in their physical and political environment. You will hear, breathe, and feel Western Australia in all its grit and glory.

User reviews

LibraryThing member annejacinta
Winton's novel is the compelling story of a broken, damaged man's attempt to protect those around him from dangers created by generational harm, the claws of a drug- ridden underclass and the inability of social safety nets to provide effective forms of help.
This is such a modern book, about life in the world right now. It's a hard life, full of threats and pressures and desperation. People are forced to endure these things without the help society pretends is available to all. Police, the law, government welfare, all fail the test of being realistic pathways to escape. Instead, fear, money, debts, burdens of family and work must be dealt with by resorting to drugs, legal and illegal, alcohol, violence, fear and flight.
Threading most powerfully through this novel is a building suspense, a feeling something dreadful is going to happen to the most vulnerable of characters.
Winton's depiction of "Freo"and Perth is excoriating. Heat, squalor, with dull, drab, terrible modern urban streetscapes and housing estates, and continual damage to the environment all add to the vision of a place you would never want to visit.
From the opening Winton's writing seems over the top, wildly pulsating with life, as if he is rushing to spill out all he can in word and imagery about people and place. As the book progresses, the pace continues in the same over heated, desperate way; it gradually becomes clear that this febrile world of words is the way we live now.
This is Tim Winton's most powerful book. It's not a place you would want to inhabit, most characters are people you hope to avoid, and the tale of their lives is a terrible one. The fact that we become so engrossed in their lives shows Winton has written a masterful work of modern literature .
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LibraryThing member PhilipJHunt
Well I was disappointed. Other Winton books have lingered in memory and I have a feeling this one won't. There is, of course, some beautiful writing here. Evocative, accurate and sometimes blade-sharp. And I have enough respect for Winton's great talent to presume all the loose ends, hints of unexplored plot-lines and conversations without back-story, are intentional. Perhaps reflective of all our real worlds. Maybe this even makes the book great, but I found it frustrating to read, constantly wondering and waiting for illumination. It's clear from page one that things are going to go downhill, even from what already seems the bottom. The descent into the criminal world nevertheless felt contrived for me. And as for the ending... Does it end? I had to re-read the last chapter to discover the one sentence that hinted at a resolution.

Also, I don't get why we think novels are easier to read without quotation marks. It's faddish and distracting.
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LibraryThing member Michael_Godfrey
I return to Winton from time to time because: Winton. He has a terse narrative style, and as others have noted, is able to convey his State and to a lesser, or less specific extent, his nation, with remarkbale brushstrokes of reality.

Though in the thirty years I spent in Australia I never heard anyone refer to a cigarette as a "fag." A "cancer stick.", a cigarette, a smoke, whatever. Not a fag. And I bludged a few thousand over the years.

As others have hinted, Winton doesn't quite happen here. Terse narrative, laconic dialogue, yes. A compelling plot, too, for a while. But then the Volvo and the Hyundai sort of part company, fluffily, meaninglessly. The back stories cease to be particulaly important, the bit characters become bittier, the ugly underworld just a bit, well, pastiche, really. In the end as the narrative accelerates I found myself thinking that this has to end in tears and then I found that maybe it does or maybe it doesn't but whatever. Doris and Gemma and Kai and Tom came and are gone and. .. . oh well. Meh.

Yet Winton could write a grocery list and I would sense narrative force. A poor Winton book, and perhaps this is, is still in the top 90% of can't put downs and "oh bugger I've finisheds." So yeah, four stars. Three and three quarters if I could. And I hope every Tom out there gets off the substance abuse somehow. And I hope every Kai out there gets help somewhere. But not from each other.

And give up on the fags already alright and have a smoke if you must.
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LibraryThing member lesleynicol
This book is about a place you wouldn't want to live in. people you would not want to meet and the terrible tale of their lives. Yet I did become engrossed in their lives which shows Tim Winton has written a great novel.
Such a different scene from the beach and bush of Winton's previous novels, but he manages to paint a picture of life for the "losers" in this part of the world, so descriptively that one can almost "smell" the squalor.
The main character Tom Keely lives on the top floor of a run-down block of high-rise units, looking down on Fremantle, WA on the "sleaze" of the city. Hence the title "Eyrie".
He is a person that I would call a "loser' but he does manage to rise from his own medicated and drunken self-pitying existence to become involved in the life of his neighbour Gemma and her grandson Kai .Whether he succeeds in bettering their lives , in particular that of the young boy, is for the reader to decide.
From the characters that the writer has created, we perceive how the female of the species, in this case Gemma., will fight on no matter how hard life's knocks ,while the male (Tom in this case0, gives up and takes refuge in alcohol drugs and self-pity. To me this is perhaps a problem facing the human race.
The book makes you think about these problems in our "modern day world" and is well worth reading.
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LibraryThing member buttsy1
Tim Winton’s ‘Eyrie’ is an engrossing and moving story of broken people in a modern and broken world.

Tom Keely, from whose point of view the story is told, has effectively removed himself from society after holding a prominent and very public position in the recent past. We never find out exactly what he did, but he was, apparently, right, and he has vindication coming. Not that any of that is doing him much good at present, as he abuses medication and alcohol attempting to obliterate that past. Other things happened, too, which tipped him over the edge of mental instability. Some of that is discussed in the story.

Despite everything, he remains an essentially good man, trying to do ‘the right thing’.
Unexpectedly, he crosses paths with Gemma, whom he knew well in childhood. As a result, his reclusiveness is compromised, and a world he knows nothing about lands in his lap. And it’s not good.

Keely is a fascinating character – a brilliant invention by Winton, equally likeable and despicable; a failed man trying to come to terms with the hand he has been dealt – not unlike Sam Pickles in ‘Cloudstreet’. Gemma, despite all the baggage she takes through life with her, is also a sympathetic, if annoyingly stubborn character. Her grandson, Kai, provides a point of connection for Tom and Gemma, and a reason for Tom to become reluctantly involved in their lives.

I have been in awe of Winton’s writing for many years, and while I haven’t enjoyed every novel he has written, I have certainly appreciated the craft of his writing. ‘Eyrie’ is quite possibly the best fiction Winton has produced – an outstanding story of modern gritty Australia, told with a heart that understands the Australian character in all its variations.
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LibraryThing member MaximWilson
The prose caught my fancy from the start, found myself laughing out aloud several times. I noted many amusing similes, loved the description of the Elgar concerto event, The end fizzled a bit, Indidnt re-read it like several book group members, but that wasn't crucial to my enjoyment.i run a medical practice, and I see people like Tom and found him believable , and could sympathise with his sad situation, chronic anxiety as a consequence of a major trauma, with self medication with alcohol and panadiene forte .… (more)
LibraryThing member adrianburke
Unconvincing. I have heard it said that the writing business starts when you re-write the first draft. I think this applies to this book which feels like a first bash dashed off at pace and then thrown at the publisher because of deadline pressures. I never bought the set up where Keely discovers himself washed up as a neighbour of a woman he knew in childhood. I never bought all the thriller element shenanigans with "villains" who are not even sketchily developed. Mc Ewan can't do thrillers and nor can Winton. I was really disappointed in this book because I so enjoyed Breath. Glad it was not a purchase and only a library loan.… (more)
LibraryThing member oldblack
Rich with references to (Western) Australiana, this book almost seems like Winton is deliberately trying to market himself as being inextricably linked with this region....but I think the reality is not quite so worthy of cynicism. He's writing about what he knows best, and, I guess, loves. And that happens to be WA. I'm not sure about Winton's connections to the seamier side of life as represented in this book though. I certainly don't have a close connection with the WA drug & crime scene, and so I found myself rather distant from this novel. I do believe that it is well written, though, because I found myself feeling the tension that Winton was trying to create. I'm not a huge fan of his work, and ironically, given what I've just said, I found "The Riders" to be his best work - .it's perhaps the only one not set in WA.… (more)
LibraryThing member Annabel1954
A beautifully written book that is easy to visualise but it has a story of harm that is chalenging. It is a story to appreciate from the beginning to end as the title is intrigingly revealed
LibraryThing member martymojito
A look at the grittier side of Western Australia. Set in Freemantle Keeley can't but help a neighbour and old friend in difficulties and gets drawn into the murkier side of life. Never mind his own problems. Good dialogue, the book draws you in. Short chapters make you keep on reading and the story gets quite tense at the close. I have a sister living in Perth and this book is set in those parts so was extra interesting for me as I know some of the locations in the book even her hometown of Scarborough.… (more)
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
There was an exuberance about the first chapter of this book - which headed nowhere in particular plot-wise but which seemed content to ramble around the streets of Fremantle ("Leviathan with an irritable bowel") gawking at its inhabitants and sketching them brilliantly - which seemed to point to a long and satisfying read. And the Indian Ocean setting was a great antidote to the freezing cold British winter in which I was reading it. I liked the way the central character's past was filled in sketchily, as though you were glimpsing it through venetian blinds, the coarse laugh-out-loud humour with which the most unsavoury characters were described ("....As he leant contemptuously against the doorjamb, he took the opportunity to reach into his trackpants and huffle his nuts"), and the earthy Aussie slang. Heck, I could even forgive the lack of speech marks and that's one of my pet hates.

Unfortunately at around the time the book afforded a good three pages to a hilarious description
of the local down-and-out there was a change of tone, and the story became an endless cycle of shagging the neighbour, fighting with the neighbour, waking up in the middle of the night to find the neighbour's kid standing there, being threatened by drugs barons, set to endless repeat. There were things I was hoping to hear the conclusion to - did we ever solve the mystery of the wet carpet?? - and yet the novel ended apparently mid-cycle. A bit like when my washing machine breaks down - kind of irritating. I was fascinated by the reviewer on the back cover who reports finishing the book with a "bruised sense of revelation". Now there's a thought. Would I be prepared to take a minor kicking in return for understanding what the hell it was all about? Yeah, maybe.
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LibraryThing member siri51
Somewhat disappointing - passionate writing, evocative setting (high rise housing in Freo) but the flawed characters resulted in a long rambling novel with far too much mental anguish, arguments and drug use. As his mother asked " do you need a neurosurgeon or a detox?" - very sensible woman. The drug scene and impacts on families including the six year old of this novel are sad; the social problems insurmountable. Unsatisfactory ending after 424pages with no resolution of the situation or even real hope for a better future.… (more)
LibraryThing member zarasecker18
I have wanted to read a Tim Winton book for a long time now so when this book came up as the next book for my book club I had high expectations of what it would be like. The many positive reviews about Tim Winton’s work all helped to fuel these expectations.

The beginning of the book was interesting enough that I was happy to continue reading. There was wonderful description of Fremantle which really captured both her beauty and her fickleness. Very quickly, however, I noticed that Winton didn’t use speech marks. Initially this didn’t pose any difficulty for me as I found it was easy to decipher who was speaking due to the way the voice was written. The further into the book I got it became a problem because everyone started sounding the same.

Character development was OK but nothing that really wowed me. We’re introduced to Gemma (a girl that Keely knew from his school days), her grandson Kai, Keely’s sister and mother and some minor characters. My favourite character was probably Keely’s mother, Doris. She was a very strong woman who wouldn’t take any nonsense from anyone least of all her son but her love for him was unmistakable.

In spite of the references to Fremantle and the great descriptions of this part of Western Australia (the reader could see exactly what Winton was describing) I felt this book was lacking in substance and quite honestly I don’t see why Winton is revered as much as he is. This book maybe better as a movie than it proved to be as a book. I’m not sure if I would read anymore of his books by choice.
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LibraryThing member MarilynKinnon
Set in a dismal tower block of social housing in Freemantle, Australia, a failed eco celebrity warrior tries to lie low and start afresh after some humiliating career debacle (never made clear) He get hooked into dysfunctional family neighbours seemingly on the drugs circuit but again never made clear. Descriptions of urban decay and modern life style are stylistically very smart but there was insufficient story line to keep real interest.… (more)
LibraryThing member zmagic69
I first bought a Tim Winton book in the SFO airport ironically enough on my way to Australia, not knowing he was a best selling author from there, I actually grabbed it because of the cover, the book was Breath and read it on the plane. Since then I have read a number of his books and they are all good. He has a very lyrical way of telling a story. Unfortunately this is not as good as the other books of his I have read. The writing has his trademark lyrical quality, the problem is the story. There is barely one. Add to this the two main characters Tom Keely and particularly Gemma Buck are not that likable. Tom is a former big time environmentalist who realized too late that most of his protesting was for naught in the mineral rich area of Western Australia. This along with a failed marriage leads him to a major breakdown all prior to the start of the book. For the entire 424 pages Tom is a terribly broken man, getting by on large quantities of prescription drugs, and Alcohol. Gemma is a girl from his childhood with loads of baggage of her own including her grandson because the boy's mother is in prison for Drugs. You know nothing positive will ever come to pass for these two and it is almost as if the author was paid by the word. Definitely not Mr Winton's best work.… (more)
LibraryThing member mnicol
Grim, relentless, tedious. Reviews of novels in the Economist are not to be trusted, it seems. The book does a job on Westen Australia, however.




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