Cloudstreet (1991) by Tim Winton is a novel set in mid-20th century Perth.
This trail provides useful information and links to provide context and further reading.
– Part One discusses the novel's historical and geographical contexts.
– Part Two examines the novel's publishing and literary contexts.
– Part Three draws together some critical responses to Cloudstreet.
The trail finishes with links to interviews and reviews. Some of these critical works and other resources are available to read online. Click the hyperlinks in the citations below to be taken to the full text.
Explore the AustLit record for Cloudstreet to discover more about the work and its place in Australia's literary landscape.
Born in Karrinyup, Western Australia, Tim Winton completed his high school education at Albany. Determined to be a writer from an early age, Winton subsequently studied creative writing at the West Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University). He became a professional writer and household name when, at the age of 21, he shared first prize in the 1981 Australian/Vogel National Literary Award for a manuscript that became An Open Swimmer (1982).
Several other books followed in the 1980s and he won his first Miles Franklin Award in 1984 for The Shallows.
Explore the AustLit author entry for Tim Winton to discover other works and further details of his life, writing, and place in Australian literature.
McCredden discusses national myth-making in Cloudstreet, arguing that '[t]he myths of Australian identity are not simply re-told in this novel, but are seen through the psychologies, actions and relationships of individual and intimately drawn characters [...] Australia as lucky and unlucky country? Land of working class battlers who fail, or heroes who make their own way? Cloudstreet seems to embrace the contradictions between these mythic elements without coming down heavily on those who spin myths, perhaps recognising that fiction writers are implicated in such makings.(...more)
Available online at Reading Australia.
Cloudstreet has been adapted into numerous forms. It was adapted first into a radio play for ABC Radio National in 1996 by Paige Gibbs. In 1998 it was adapted by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo into a stage play that toured internationally. In 2013 an opera version was in development, to be directed by opera and theatre director Gale Edwards and composed by George Palmer. A three-part miniseries screened on Showtime in 2011. You can see the trailer for the miniseries below.
The National Film and Sound Archive offers some great examples of how government-produced films represented mid-20th century Perth. ‘Postcard from Perth’ (1954) shows pram racks on the back of old buses and conductors setting prams on the footpath for mothers (in the second half of the short film). You can watch the video below.
‘Another Sunny Day in Western Australia’ (1961) also gives a sense of the cultural changes that have taken place since the 1960s (note the promotion of suntans for toddlers, for instance).
Cloudstreet’s Nedlands murderer is based on an actual murderer, Eric Edgar Cooke. Cooke murdered eight people in Perth from 1959 to 1963. He is also mentioned in Robert Drewe’s memoir The Shark Net and Craig Silvey’s novel Jasper Jones, which is set in the mid-1960s. Contemporary newspaper accounts are available via Trove; for example, see the Canberra Times article from 22 October 1963: 'Man in Perth Court on Triple Murder Charge.'
It is helpful to consider the publishing and literary contexts in which Cloudstreet appeared. While the book is set in the middle of the twentieth century, it was published in 1991, at a time when questions about national identity, the past, and the future were particularly prominent.
Cloudstreet was first published in 1991, just three years after the bicentenary of the First Fleet’s arrival in Sydney. The year was marked by formal commemorations, including a re-enactment of the First Fleet’s voyage, and the World Expo ’88 event in Brisbane. The year was also marked by increased visibility of and public debate surrounding Australia’s Indigenous history, reconciliation, and land rights. Robert Dixon has noted in his essay 'Tim Winton, Cloudstreet and the Field of Australian Literature' that, '[a]s a novel conceived, written and received during the decade around 1990, Cloudstreet was much affected by the moment of 1988, the Bicentenary of European settlement in Australia. In so far as the Bicentenary affected the arts, it created a distinct climate of expectations, values and interests that can be seen reflected in the literature of that period.' Another novel from around the same time, Andrew McGahan’s 1988, can also be seen to grapple with these expectations, and in quite different ways from Cloudstreet.
In this essay, Robert Dixon argues that Cloudstreet has a range of meanings. He suggests that 'Cloudstreet does not have a single and definitive meaning. Rather, it is a textual site that lends itself, albeit actively rather than passively, to a variety of uses.' Dixon examines literary celebrity and how it informs our readings of novels. He also discusses how Winton and his mentor Elizabeth Jolley had vastly different careers that were determined in part by the ways in which they 'corresponded with a key moment in the growth and maturity of the field of Australian literature.'
Dixon, Robert. 'Tim Winton, Cloudstreet, and the Field of Australian Literature.' Westerly 50 (2005): 240-260. Subsequently published in the AustLit Anthology of Criticism. Sighted 06/12/2013.
Critics have responded to Cloudstreet from a range of perspectives, examining how it looks at issues such as place, houses, belonging, and identity.
Browse a list of works with Cloudstreet as a subject here.
McGirr, Michael. 'Go Home said the Fish: A Study of Tim Winton's Cloudstreet.’ Meanjin 56.1 (1997): 56-66. Subsequently published in the AustLit Anthology of Criticism online. Sighted 06/12/2013.
Echoing Judith Wright, David Crouch identifies two twisted strands in the Australian postcolonial condition - a love of the land and an invader's guilt. This 'non-indigenous desire to belong to a stolen land' gives the Australian ghost story 'a particular resonance ... In this country the presence of ghosts can be read as traces of historical traumas, fears which are often exposed in expressions of apprehensive (un)settlement.' Crouch aims to draw out some reflections on this perturbance in the Australian consciousness 'by reading Hume Nisbet's mobilisation of a phantasmic topology in his story "The Haunted Station" alongside the unsettling ghosts of Tim Winton's Cloudstreet.(...more)
Crouch, David. ‘National Hauntings: The Architecture of Australian Ghost Stories.’ JASAL 2007 (Special Issue) 95-105.
Anthony, Marilyn. [Untitled.] Rev. of Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton. Westerly 37.2 (1992).
Jennifer Byrne, Marieke Hardy, Jason Steger, Mem Fox and Peter Garrett discuss Cloudstreet on The First Tuesday Book Club. They reflect on the pleasures of the book, and Byrne and Steger remark that it seems to have a certain rhythm to the prose.
First Book Club, ABC, Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. Reviewed 02/03/2010. Online. (Accessed 12/12/2013)