A rifle-shot of a novel – crisp, fast, shocking – The Shepherd’s Hut is an urgent masterpiece about solitude, unlikely friendship, and the raw business of survival.
Jaxie dreads going home. His mum’s dead. The old man bashes him without mercy, and he wishes he was an orphan. But no one’s ever told Jaxie Clackton to be careful what he wishes for.
In one terrible moment his life is stripped to little more than what he can carry and how he can keep himself alive. There’s just one person left in the world who understands him and what he still dares to hope for. But to reach her he’ll have to cross the vast saltlands on a trek that only a dreamer or a fugitive would attempt.
The Shepherd’s Hut is a searing look at what it takes to keep love and hope alive in a parched and brutal world.
Review by John Purcell
Brutal. That is the word that best describes Tim Winton’s new novel, The Shepherd’s Hut. Brutal. I felt bruised and winded on finishing it. Parched and dusty. I stared around me and the familiar was unfamiliar. The valued, valueless.
Jaxie Clackton is a speck on the huge expanse of the WA desert. He is on the run from the law. The outcast’s outcast just desperate to find the one person who really gets him.
And that’s all I want to tell you. The rest you can find out for yourself. And you will find out because you will read it. Everyone will be reading it. This book is set to be an Australian classic.
Another classic, that is. Because Tim Winton has already written Cloudstreet, Dirt Music, Breath and the others. And we come back to Tim Winton because there is always something true in what he writes – a truth that can’t be blurted out or rolled into a neat little aphorism, but has to be felt or experienced through the telling. He is Australia’s truth teller and The Shepherd’s Hut is truth at its most brutal.
“Winton’s novel of breaking and mending is a searing, ardent and deeply empathetic dive into the turmoil of a mutilated heart. I will never be able to unhear the voice of young Jaxie Clackton, plangent and profane, who is destined to become one of the greatest characters in Australian literature.”
“Landscape and destiny are inextricable in Tim Winton’s latest novel, and the result is a gritty realism that ultimately propels the story into the timelessness of a parable. All that I love about Winton’s work is here: the poetry of the colloquial, fully realized characters, and the fearlessness to enter the deepest mysteries of being. The Shepherd’s Hut is a brilliant reminder that Winton is one of the world’s great living novelists.”
“A richly compassionate work, deeply informed by Winton’s poetic genius.”
“A masterpiece from a masterful storyteller. We have not seen many people like Jaxie in Australian literature. When reading this book I wondered if Winton had actually found someone like Jaxie and had simply recorded him telling his incredible story. This is the magic of this book. The voice is so authentic and the language of this young character rings true to the people I have met throughout my life. I will not forget this book.”
“A novel that reminds us what fiction can do. Here is a voice that digs into your viscera and changes you from the inside. This is fiction in the raw.”
“Describes the chaotic struggle of new masculinity better than anything else I’ve read. As an exploration of the intergenerational trauma that plagues men, it couldn’t be more timely. Seriously, it’s incredible.”
“The Shepherd’s Hut is wonderful. Brutal, agonising, tender. Ultimately, it’s a story of redemption and hope.”
“Even a regular Tim Winton novel — if such a thing exists — would knock most other novels into a cocked hat, but The Shepherd's Hut is Winton at the top of his game, and that's saying something. A fierce, pungent, slangy, humdinger of a book, with a real kick in the tail. Fiction doesn't get much better than this.”
“Shot through with the breathtaking evocation of landscape that is Winton’s forte, The Shepherd’s Hut is a hymn to the wild forces of nature and unsentimental belonging. Winton’s enviable ability to elicit passion for Jaxie through his immaculate, poetic and troubled rush of vernacular — no matter how terrible Jaxie’s actions — is broken, beautiful and ugly in all the best ways.” – RAY ROBINSON