The Shepherd’s Hut
Aussie Tim Winton has twice before been nominated for the Booker Prize and he could quite easily bag another nod for his latest novel. It concerns teenage boy Jaxie Clacton who has a rum old home life. His beloved mother is dead and he lives with his hard-drinking and abusive father in a small Australian town. On returning home one afternoon however he discovers that the car his father has been working on has fallen off its jacks, killing him outright (“the old turd was cactus”). He takes this as his cue to head out into the bush, without informing anyone, with the vague notion of hooking up with an old girlfriend who lives many miles away. After days of traversing the vast salt lands of Western Australia he discovers that the items he has packed with him are wholly inadequate for the task in hand. Salvation – of sorts – arrives when he chances upon a hermit living in a ramshackle hut. It’s the kind of tale - asking questions of masculinity, friendship and justice - that I can imagine becoming a set text for students, as it bears multiple readings with the gritty realism throwing up all manner of literary riches.