An Open Swimmer

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First edition (publ. Allen & Unwin)

An Open Swimmer is the first novel by acclaimed Australian author, Tim Winton. Winton wrote this novel while attending a creative writing course at Curtin University. In 1981 it won The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, and thereby kick-started Tim Winton's successful writing career.

Plot summary[edit]

Set in three distinct parts, An Open Swimmer is a 'coming of age' novel; it details the late-teen life of a young man named Jerra Nilsam. A considerable part of the novel describes the camping trip taken by Jerra and his childhood friend, Sean. On this camping trip, Jerra and Sean meet an old man living in a shack on the beach near their camp site. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the old man had murdered his wife in a similar shack on a nearby beach by burning it down with her inside. Many sub-plots are scattered throughout this book in the form of spontaneous paragraphs and dialogues between unnamed characters (but presumably one of them is Jerra).

In the end, after having returned home and parted ways with Sean, Jerra returns to the camping site alone. While Jerra is sleeping in his van, there is a violent storm which results in a large tree falling on the Kombi. Jerra awakes in the old mans hut, the storm having passed and having been saved by the old man. In the final paragraph, Jerra returns to his Kombi, opens the fuel tank and drops a match into it before running.