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Land's Edge  : A Coastal Memoir - Tim Winton

Land's Edge

A Coastal Memoir


Published: 22nd November 2010
Ships: 5 to 9 business days
5 to 9 business days
RRP $29.95

'In this record of a life-long love affair with the sea, Tim Winton's prose ripples, shimmers and surges with awe and respect for how the ocean has not only sustained him physically and emotionally but determined the very rhythms of his life.'


On childhood holidays to the beach the sun and surf kept Tim Winton outside in the mornings, in the water; the wind would drive him indoors in the afternoons, to books and reading. This ebb and flow of the day became a way of life.

In this beautifully delicate memoir, Tim Winton writes about his obsession with what happens where the water meets the shore – about diving, dunes, beachcombing – and the sense of being on the precarious, wondrous edge of things that haunts his novels.

Complemented by the breathtaking photographs of Narelle Autio, Land's Edge is a celebration of the coastal life and those who surrender themselves to it.

Winton's homage to the ocean and his childhood... A book to return to again and again.' Matt Condon, Sun Herald

'A love letter to the beach, an enchanting celebration of life on the edge.' Sydney Morning Herald

About The Author

Tim Winton has published twenty-one books for adults and children, and his work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Since his first novel, An Open Swimmer, won the Australian/Vogel Award in 1981, he has won the Miles Franklin Award four times (for Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath) and twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize (for The Riders and Dirt Music). He lives in Western Australia


On a low tide Monday afternoon just short of my thirty-third birthday the winter sun finally comes out to burn the sky clear of cloud and the kids and I gallop onto the beach to play. An easterly wind spikes out across the broad lagoon flattening the sea and running rashes across it in cold gusts. Under the sun the water shows its mottling of deeps and shal lows, black and turquoise, reef and sand, dark and light, its coming and its going. The blunted swell butts against the barrier reef in feeble lines that lie down before the wind. Way out, the horizon looks like a ripsaw. At first glimpse of the Indian Ocean I stop running and feel the relief unwinding in my chest, in my neck and shoulders. Dinghies twist against their moorings. Gulls scatter before the blur of my insane kelpie. Two days off the plane, I am finally home.

The sand is cold beneath our bare feet and the dunes damp and spicy with marram grass and salt bush. We wheel down the wind hollows between the dunes, yelling and fooling about, shaking off the confines of the house, the stalemates and frustra tions of winter indoors. The sun slants finely on our necks, barely felt, lighting the hard white beach to squinting point, to the momentary point of summer.

Down at the low-water mark, at the scalloped edges of the shore, the water is gigglingly cold. Clouds rise around our feet. The four of us hold hands and bend like a sail, raucous in the east wind, laughing with shock.

The kids fall to digging and damming and sculpting. They wet the knees of their trousers. They sniff back the gunk of their head colds and go quiet with concentration over moats and walls while I stand there in the water with my feet going numb and my mind drifting in a kind of fugue state that only comes to me here.

There is no one else around. I flinch at the sound of a school of whitebait cracking the sur face a few metres away. It's alive out there. After the still, exhausted Aegean, where nothing moves but the plastic bags, it seems like a miracle. Call it jet lag, cabin fever, but I am almost in tears. There is nowhere else I'd rather be, nothing else I would prefer to be doing. I am at the beach looking west with the continent behind me as the sun tracks down to the sea. I have my bearings.

Like most Australians I have spent much of my life in the suburbs. I was raised in the Perth sub urb of Karrinyup. A quarter acre, a terracotta roof, a facade knocked out by some bored government architect, a Hills Hoist in the back yard and picket fences between us and the neighbours. It was the sixties and the street was full of young families, State Housing applicants, migrants from Holland and Yugoslavia and the English north - foot sol diers of the great sprawl trying to make our way in the raw diagram of streets we slowly filled to make a new neighbourhood. I lived there happily for twelve years but I do not dream of that house.

As an adult - well, a child bridegroom, really - I dabbled with the older, more substan tial world of the inner city where the trees were thick-trunked and the grapevines gnarled and the roofs tin and steep with age. Here, old people were staying on and young people moving in to make lifestyle decisions and think long and seriously about themselves. It was the eighties. A quarter acre, fences, another Hills Hoist (the landlord's) in the back yard.

A quintessential Australian suburban life, per haps. But again, when I dream, when I remember, when I doze into reverie, I don't see the picket fences and the Holden in the driveway. I don't see the checkerboard tiles of the Karrinyup kitchen floor or hear the whine of mowers or the hiss of the boiling chip heater. On rare and dreaded fam ily slide nights, I am shocked to see myself in a glistening yellow raincoat. It was never winter when I was a kid! I never looked so pale! I have to strain to recognize myself in Hush Puppies and a mohair turtleneck, ready for Sunday School with my brother, who is about to bawl. Because in my memory of childhood there is always the smell of bubbling tar, of Pinke Zinke, the briny smell of the sea. It is always summer and I am on Scarborough Beach, blinded by light, with my shirt off and my back a map of dried salt and peeling sunburn. There are waves cracking on the sandbar and the rip flags are up. My mum, brown as a planed piece of jarrah, is reading a novel by John O'Hara with cleavage on the cover and someone is spraying coconut oil on the bodies of girls in wide-side bikinis. Out there is west, true west. The sea is where the sun goes at the end of the day, where it lives while you sleep. I have a fix on things when I know where west is.

I often wonder about these two childhoods of mine, the one contained and clothed, between fences, the other rambling, windblown, half naked between the flags. Is it just nostalgia? Have I idealized these summers and chased their myth all my adult life? Did the suburban boy simply imagine himself a coastal life?

No, I lived both these lives and have the wonky slides to prove it. It's just that I lived the coastal life harder, with more passion. As a kid I recognized that life, embraced it and made it my own. In sight of the sea I felt as though I had all my fingers and toes. I was relaxed and confident. At the beach I wasn't just passive, letting life happen to me; I didn't care about being smart or popular, I didn't long to be better looking. The sea swallowed up all my primary school anxieties. Something suddenly consumed my whole attention. I surged toward shore through the laughing crowd, bodysurfing, careful not to lose the togs. Out beyond the break, I dived and brought up fistfuls of white sand to prove to myself! could do it. The sun on my back was like a blush of recognition, and in the rare moments I was still, I sat and stared towards Rottnest Island, at the wild glitter that bucked and swayed with out resting. The remainder of my life was indoor stuff - eating and sleeping and grinding through spelling lists, laps of the oval - but even from school I could see the bomboras breaking way out to sea on a high swell, there at the corner of my eye.

I lived five kilometres inland, a blinding lime stone road away from the coast. My house had no view; I was landlocked by picket fences and parked cars and homework, but in the afternoons I could smell the Fremantle Doctor coming in across the treetops, stirring the curtains and the copper boiled washing. It came as sweet relief, cool and merciful, and at night as it moderated to a gentle breeze it brought the coast upon it in the scents of brine and seagrass. The pounding of the swell against the land's edge was so clear it seemed the sea was only a dune away. I didn't need a map to know where I was. In the atlas I lived in a dot, but with that breeze on my back I had a life and a place.

ISBN: 9781926428284
ISBN-10: 1926428285
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 124
Published: 22nd November 2010
Dimensions (cm): 20.7 x 14.9
Weight (kg): 20.7