Selected in May 2003 by members of The Australian Society of Authors as their favourite Australian book.
Selected in December 2004 by the Australian public in an ABC poll as Australia's fifth favourite book.
'Tim Winton’s fiction has divided critics. His writing has been characterised as nostalgic (Dixon), as too Christian (Goldsworthy), as blokey, and even misogynist (Schürholz). He has been pilloried on the blog site Worst of Perth, with its ‘Wintoning Project,’ which calls for contributions of ‘Australian or Western Australian schmaltz, in the style of our most famous literary son, master dispenser of literary cheese and fake WA nostalgia Tim Winton’ (online). And he has won the top Australian literary prize, The Miles Franklin Award, four times (Shallows, 1984; Cloudstreet, 1992; Dirt Music, 2002; and Breath, 2009). Winton’s oeuvre spans three decades. It remains highly recognisable in its use of Australian vernacular and its sun-filled, beachy Western Australian settings; but it has also taken some dramatic, dark and probingly self-questioning turns. While critics often look for common strands in an author’s oeuvre, it is revealing to consider developments and changes between individual works. How do the darker, more abject elements of Winton’s imaginative visions relate to the ‘wholesome’ if macho Aussie surfer image, or to the writer of plenitude somehow embarrassing to critics?' (Author's introduction)
'This essay proposes to investigate in some detail the matter of voice and the related intensity of presence in Tim Winton's critically successful and now securely canonised novel of mid-twentieth-century Australian regional life.' (48)
'First published in 1991, Tim Winton's Cloudstreet is now presented in one of its several Penguin editions as a 'Modern Australian Classic'. Might this detail of the book' marketing reveal something about the novel's metatextual status? It might be seen to imply that Cloudstreet figures a certain Australian modernity. Indeed, this modernity would have to be commensurable with something classic, standard, which is also to say formative. And insofar as it is formative of the present, a classic is also implicitly, at least in part, of the past. Cloudstreet's metatextual status, then, implies that the novel figures Australia's modernity even as it relies on a classicism that is spectral: haunting the present in all its modernity. If the paradoxical canonical status claimed by the novel implies a certain spectrality, in this way then it is perhaps not surprising that in fleeting but essential moments the novel functions not only as a family epic, but also as a ghost story.' (Author's introduction, 75)
'In Dirt Music, remembering the time before a car crash took the lives of his brother Darkie, Darkie's wife Sal, and their two children, Bird and Bullet, Luther Fox recalls Bird's question : 'Lu, how come water lets you through it?' Bird is the one who saw God, and 'if anyone saw God it would likely be her. Bird's the nearest thing to an angelic being.' Bird's question suggests the function of water in Winton's novels. Water is everywhere in his writing, as people sail on it, dive into it, live on the edge of it. Clearly the sea and the river are vital aspects of the writer's own experience. But water is more than an omnipresent feature of his writing and his life, the oceanscape of his stories. It is something that 'lets you through'. It lets you through because it is the passage to a different state of being, sometimes in dream, sometimes in physical extremity, but always offers itself as the medium of transformation. When it lets you through - whether to escape to a different life, as a rite of passage to adulthood, to see the world in a new way or to discover the holiness of the earth or the wonder of the world, whether it is the baptismal water of redemption to an opening to a world of silence - and it is all these things- you become different.' (Author's introduction 16)
'Tim Winton's female characters show a strong tendency towards self-threatening behaviors, transience and ferocity. This is evident in the violent deaths of Jewel in An Open Swimmer, Maureen in Shallows, Ida's murder in In the Winter Dark [...], Tegwyn's self-harm in That Eye, the Sky, Dolly's alcoholism in Cloudstreet, Eva Sanderson's Hutchence-lookalike death in Breath and, obviously, the ephemerality of mothers in Dirt Music...' (96)
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.'
'The consolidation of the myths produced by Gallipoli suffused much of Australian public culture in the decades following the end of the First World War, producing models of masculinity, community and nationhood that became inscribed as cultural norms. It is these very norms that Winton's notion of the potential "new tribalism" of Australian community seeks to disrupt, especially by way of Cloudstreet's representation of family.' (Source: Article.)
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.
Crouch concludes, in part, that both stories 'seem concerned with the continuity and legitimacy of settlement'. The haunted houses in both tales 'navigate the tensions surrounding the occupation of place in Australia' and both are 'undercut by the awareness of displaced indigenous habitation and suggest a moral disturbance in the non-indigenous Australian relationship with place'. It is conceivable, Crouch argues, that 'the ghost story itself is a way of silencing an indigenous presence within a discursive structure that asserts the legitimacy of non-indigenous occupation.'