Aussie Author Challenge Book Reviews

Book Review: Cloudstreet

‘Cloudstreet’ by Tim Winton starts off in the 1940s in Western Australia. We are introduced to the Pickles family and the Lamb family. The Pickles include Sam Pickles, the father, his wife, Dolly Pickles and kids Ted, Rose and Chub. The Lamb family are initially a god-fearing family with Lester Lamb at the helm along with his wife Oriel. Their children include their sons Quick, Fish and Lon and their daughters Hat, Elaine and Red.

Sam Pickles is bad luck. Literally. He lost half his arm in a work accident. He woke up next to his dead father. He bets on horses. And never wins, thus gambling away money he doesn’t even have. His wife Dolly is very beautiful. Trouble is, she knows it. And spends her time in pubs drinking and sleeping with sailors and other men. By a stroke of luck for Sam in a very unfortunate manner (if that’s possible), his brother drops dead too and leaves Sam and family a house in Perth where they decide to start afresh. The house is number 1, Cloud Street. A massive house. That seems like it could fall apart. One of the conditions on which Sam has received the house though is that they cannot sell it for another twenty years. But given Sam’s gambling habits, it’s hard to maintain a house as big as this.

Enter, the Lamb family. Looking to get away and start afresh after an accident renders Fish, the favourite child, mentally disabled, they move into half of Cloud Street as tenants. They couldn’t be more unlike the Pickles. Hard working. Persistent. Oriel sets up a grocery store outside the house, thus raking in the money. And Sam and Dolly continue to squander the rental income on gambling and booze.

Cloudstreet covers both families lives over twenty years or more. We follow Quick and how he struggles with his guilt. We see Fish and how incapable and child-like he is and continues to be. We see Lon who starts off as a toddler and who he turns out to be. We see tomboyish Red and her journey through life. We follow Rose through her struggles with an eating disorder and having to be the parent when both her parents are pretty useless. All this set in the time of war in the backdrop to begin with. And whether the families are able to forgive themselves and the other members for all that has occurred.

Cloudstreet is one of Winton’s most famous books. And it did live up to its name for me. However, I must say, this is the first Winton book I’ve read and initially it was a bit hard to get around his writing style. He’s very Australian in that he writes some words the way it ought to be pronounced. For instance, ‘carn’ for ‘come on’ or ‘yairs’ for ‘yes’. Another unique feature of his style was the complete lack of inverted commas for dialogue. I found it frustrating initially as I would wonder whether it was someone thinking or actually speaking. But once you get through the first couple of chapters, you are able to understand his style better and then it flows really quickly. At the end of the day, these two families and their members could remind you of people you know. The characters are very realistic and you do feel for some of them and get angry with others at the right moments. All in all, it was a good book even though I took a break once as I had to read another book for my book club. The book has now been made into a mini TV series.

My rating:

This has been written as part of the 2011 Aussie Author Challenge.

It has also been cross-posted over at Bond with Books. Check out the blog for book reviews by other bloggers.

Until next time,


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  • dhiraj jain
    2 June 2011 at 4:22 am

    Was compiling a list of books to read, Cloudstreet is one of them  now..

  • Lilly
    2 June 2011 at 5:02 am

    Oh I havent read any Tim Winton yet and did not realise he had such a unique style. It certainly hasnt done him any harm it seems. I must go check him out as this one sounds good! Thanks.

  • soulmate
    2 June 2011 at 5:09 am

    On a side note, have you reached india?

  • Psych Babbler
    3 June 2011 at 3:01 am

    Hey Soulmate, yes I’ve reached India. And get this…in 24 hours, I’ve
    fallen sick with a sore throat. Sigh.

  • Psych Babbler
    3 June 2011 at 3:02 am

    He is very unique…I don’t think I’ve read anyone like him. Not even other
    Aussie authors. Had heard a lot about him from a close friend and by an
    instructor of a creative writing course I took last year so I bit the

  • Psych Babbler
    3 June 2011 at 3:02 am

    Do stick with it initially as it can be a bit confusing….like I said, once
    you get past the first couple of chapters, you can breeze through it…

  • soulmate
    3 June 2011 at 5:16 am

    oops.. thts not good way to start your holiday.. I guess the change in the weather plus the dust did the damage. Hope you get better soon. I am in mumbai for a couple of days around 11 June. Do let me know about your plans..

  • Psych Babbler
    3 June 2011 at 7:01 am

    Yeah, I always used to fall sick before too easily when I lived here. Still get allergies in Aus as well…and re the 11th will let you know. A friend of mine is going to confirm re meeting up too so I’m going to have to see how things pan out. Unfortunately with everyone working, it seems like weekends are the only time to catch up while weekdays I sit twiddling my thumbs… 😀

  • soulmate
    3 June 2011 at 7:18 am

    i can understand.. i didnt write the exact dates.. my bad part. :-).. i am there from 11-14 June.. leaving on 14 afternoon…

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:37 am

    Oh…I’m going to email you…