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I first read Shallows, Tim Winton’s second novel (which won the Miles Franklin Award), in 1984 when I was 21 and Tim was 24.

So reading Breath, his ninth novel, 24 years later was something of a shared reminiscence.

It is about adolescence, the ocean, surfing and feeling disconnected from peers, the community and the opposite sex. I could relate to a lot of this (except the surfing), but I kept asking myself (or Tim, really): "why I am I reading this? Haven’t we covered this territory before?" We have, of course – in Shallows, Dirt Music, An Open Swimmer and parts of The Turning.

The fact that I’ve read all of these novels indicates how highly I regard Tim Winton’s writing. It is effortless reading. But I have to say, sadly, I found Breath to be quite an unpleasant experience.

Beautiful, insightful, vivid, profound – but I couldn’t wait to finish it (like a visit to the therapist, it’s not something which can be terminated half-way).

I wasn’t sure which of the tales of a teenager cheating death – while surfing with Sando, diving with Loonie, or constricting Eva – I found more disturbing.

They are all equally shocking – Winton’s eye is so accurate you can’t help imagining that this is All True. If so, then "Breath" is a monumental confession – and probably could not have been written any earlier in his epic literary career.

While I’m sure Tim Winton is looking at another swag of awards, all I can say is this – can we move on, now, Tim? I’m afraid that if he persists with this tone of searing repentance, Winton could end up inflicting cruelty upon his loyal readers and his hapless characters.

I don’t think I would like that – I’m still recovering from the end of The Riders, thanks very much.

Reviewed by Mark Young