It is hard to imagine any seaborne activity in Australia currently more unpopular than whaling.  Aussies regularly disparage Japanese “research” harvesting of whales and would likely pour even more vitriol on Iceland were it geographically closer to the continent.  However, Tim Winton has written a novel that reminds us that the hated harpooning was also a part of Australian life in the not too distant past.  In Shallows, Winton creates a fictional whaling town on Australia’s west coast which is home to a drought-ruined farmer, his free-spirited daughter, her estranged husband, and a pack of radical environmentalists who come to shut down the killing in the late 1970s.  The mood of the book is dark, and lots of peripheral characters are carefully drawn yet seem to have little to do with the main story line.  No matter.  This is a good novel that rightfully earned Winton the Miles Franklin prize in 1984.  I found the ending quite disturbing, and no, I will not spoil it for you here!

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