Editor Kate Lomas Glendenning reviews Tim Winton’s classic That Eye, the Sky.
That Eye, the Sky is one of Tim Winton’s earlier works before Cloudstreet propelled him to fame. Winton’s writing style is distinct and rich in prose. His style at first appears jarring against his point of view, that of a pre-pubescent boy, Ort Flack. However, this works to his advantage, since Ort isn’t like most boys, or most people. Ort has a unique way of seeing the things, whether in his imagination or the real world. Ort’s life and that of his family and friends starts to unravel after his dad was involved in a devastating accident. His sister is constantly angry, his grandmother is ‘all inside herself’ and his mum is trying to manage everything and everyone till one day a strange man appears at their door to help out.
One of the main reasons I adore this book is the imagery. Winton uses distinct imagery to capture his setting. The book is set in rural Western Australia but several of the characters do venture into Perth. Winton is able to capture the area through descriptions of the unbearable heat, pestering flies and buildings aged by the environment like skin is by the sun.
The characters are the driving force of this novel. Each damaged by events known of unknown to the reader. Not many of the characters are designed to be liked, such as Ort’s sister, Tegwyn or his dad’s boss, Mr. Cherry. However, I personally couldn’t help but be sympathetic towards them (not Mr. Cherry as much) after viewing Ort’s observations of them. Ort isn’t a reliable narrator since he doesn’t understand most things going on around him but he is observant. This allows readers to almost decode what is going on in the novel, affairs under noses of suspicious parents and resentment and fear bubbling under the surface.
That Eye, the Sky unravels at a steady pace with an amazing but expected conclusion. It is written beautifully but the style might be off-putting to most. Not a story for children but for young teens and adults who will sympathise and understand Ort’s world better then him. I would recommend this novel for those who love the gritty but romanticised descriptions of Australia and Winton’s writing style.