Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton
In honor of Brona's Australian November event, I read Cloudstreet. I'd heard it was great, but I didn't know a thing about it otherwise. It turned out to be a sort of different take on a family saga novel, and indeed it was pretty great reading, even though it's not quite my usual sort of thing.
Two disasters lead to two families heading to Perth in the early 1940s. The Pickles family -- hard-drinking, shiftless, prickly, and always trusting to luck -- inherit a large ramshackle house, and rent half of it to the Lambs -- industrious, full of rectitude and driven by a drill sergeant of a mother. The only thing they have in common is poverty, and for twenty years they share the house but not a lot else. Eventually, though, they pull together and find means of unity and forgiveness -- of a sort, anyway -- in the younger generation.
It's a hardscrabble story, with plenty of rough edges. It also has some supernatural elements, as the house itself seems to have a sort of life, and a mysterious man shows up periodically who is clearly not quite of this world.
There's a lot of quiet historical background, as the story starts in the 40s and finishes in the early 60s. It's very well done; you can imagine the time and place, but it's not right in front. Winton also includes a fictional version of a Perth serial killer, the Night Caller in reality and the Nedlands Monster in the novel.
It's an absorbing novel; the reader is dumped into the story and it's easy to get lost in the world of working-class Australia. Good stuff.