I did a review of Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, and Ted recommended that I also read Breath. I borrowed an copy from my library and am happy that I did.
Breath takes place on the western coast of Australia. The present is set in this century. Bruce's memories of his youth are probably sometime in the 1980s.
Bruce doesn't feel quite at home in his town. Even though he was born in Australia, his parents immigrated from England after WWII, so Bruce was too new to be a real Aussie. The father grew up in Kent, but never told Bruce any stories about his youth. The mother remembers going into the Tube during the bomb raids and coming out to see destroyed buildings, but that was all that she said about her old home.
(I am assuming the parents came via the Empire Settlement Act.)
Bruce somehow becomes friends with Loonie, the son of the local pub owner, who also has trouble making friends.
Loonie was lonely, and Bruce's parents recognized this. "They sensed that for all the derisory swagger, he respected them (Bruce's parents) and even loved them in his own way. He often crouched alongside my father at the smoker while the fish were racked and he was forever seizing a teach towel whenever he found himself in my mother's kitchen."
For the most part, the town and its people were conventional and even a bit boring to Bruce. It wasn't until he started surfing with Loonie and picked up even more tips from a former professional surfer that he felt that his life had some purpose.
"We talked about skill and courage and luck - we shared all that, and in time we surfed to fool with death - but for me there was still the outlaw feeling of doing something graceful, as is dancing on water was the best and the bravest thing a man could do."
In this novel, I learned a lot about the evolution of surfing in the late 20th century, including the types of board used, what surfers search for in order to surf, the risks that are involved, and the intoxication of the sport.
As Bruce gets more involved with the older surfer dude, his friendship with Loonie changes and does his relationship with his parents and other people in the surfer world.
Although I was never interested in the surfing culture, I didn't find it boring to read about it. Winton weaves this world so well with his words, that it was a enjoyable and thoughtful read.
In another sense, it's a coming-of-age novel but for mature readers.