Review: Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch

I loved fragments of “Swallow the Air” more than I did its totality, but that won’t stop me recommending it wholeheartedly. This was my first time reading Tara June Winch — “The Yield” will happen sometime soon though, I assure you — and the writing is beautiful; lyrical, certainly, punctuated with vivid descriptions; but somehow planed flat, too. Winch doesn’t waste a word. Her prose is stripped of superfluities. It’s a finely honed instrument wielded virtuosically.

This is the story of fifteen-year-old May, an Aboriginal girl desperate to find a place she belongs following the death of her mother, the long-ago abandonment of her abusive father, the alcoholism of her aunt, and the desertion of her prime ally in life: her brother, Billy, who has turned to drugs. Through a series of interconnected, linear vignettes, we trace May’s journey as she hitch-hikes to the Top End in search of her father, eventually ending up in Redfern’s Block, Lake Cowal and eventually a mission in Euabalong.

Its episodic structure makes “Swallow the Air” a breeze to read, and I had to forcibly slow myself down on occasions to truly appreciate the language and the gravity of the narrative. I wished Winch would marinate in scenes longer. They’re so carefully and delicately sketched, but I wanted more. Which is why I’m so excited to finally read “The Yield,” which feels like a more substantial tome.

ISBN: 9780702263309
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 216
Release Date: 2/02/2021

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