Breath by Tim Winton| Summary, Themes, Characters & Synopsis

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About the Book- Breath

Book TitleBreath
AuthorTim Winton
GenreComing-of-age, fiction
Publication date29 April 2009
PublisherHamish Hamilton, Australia
No. of Pages288 Pages
SettingWestern Australia, 1970s


The main characters of “Breath” by Tim Winton are:

  1. Bruce “Pikelet” Pike ➜ He’s the main character. He’s a young boy who loves surfing.
  2. Ivan “Loonie” Loon ➜ He’s Pikelet’s friend and loves surfing just as much.
  3. Sando ➜ Sando is a grown-up who teaches Pikelet and Loonie how to surf.
  4. Eva ➜ Eva is Sando’s wife.
  5. Mrs. Pike ➜ She’s Pikelet’s mom.
  6. Mr. Pike ➜ He’s Pikelet’s dad.


The themes of “Breath” by Tim Winton are:

  1. Taking Big Risks ➜ The book explores how people sometimes do dangerous things to feel alive.
  2. Growing Up ➜ It’s about kids becoming adults and learning about life.
  3. Learning from Others ➜ The main characters learn from someone older and wiser.
  4. Nature’s Power ➜ The story shows how the ocean can be both beautiful and scary.


Breath by Tim Winton, published in 2008, is a contemporary bildungsroman that takes place in the 1970s in the small beach town of Sawyer, Western Australia. There, the main character Bruce “Pikelet” Pike matures. His difficult bond with “Loonie,” and subsequently, an older couple he meets through his escapades with Loonie, are particularly significant to this process.


At the start of Breath, Bruce Pike introduces himself as a paramedic in his fifties who is divorced. His lifelong proclivity for seeking thrills has been funneled into his work, as he describes throughout the following tale. When Bruce is called to the house of a youngster who has reportedly committed suicide, something within him is set off. He imagines saving himself from drowning in a dream. Then, remembering his early years in Sawyer, he finds comfort while playing his didjeridoo, a classic Australian instrument.

Pikelet, as he was then known, felt perpetually isolated from other children his age as a result of having aging, traditional parents. Pikelet’s only skill is his excellent swimming prowess. When Pikelet is eleven years old, he meets 12-year-old Ivan “Loonie” Loon, who enjoys the water but not as much as he enjoys the rush it gives him. His preferred game involves holding his breath underwater to make other people believe he has perished. Pikelet demonstrates that he can hold his breath for a long period after being given a dare. The guys quickly become buddies thanks to their shared desire for risk.

The lads went to the ocean one day on their bikes to watch the surfers, despite Pikelet’s father forbidding him from going there. They are mesmerized by the courage and grace of the soldiers “dancing on the sea.” The prowess of one surfer in particular sticks out. He is older than the others and charming. The youngsters quickly come under the tutelage of Bill “Sando” Sanderson. He permits them to keep the used surfboards they spent a lot of money on at his place. He spends a lot of time with the boys and teaches them how to surf, which causes rivalry among them as they each try to win his favor.

Eva, Sando’s younger American wife, is envious of him because of his exceptionally strong friendship with two youngsters who are less than half his age. The lads observe Eva’s apparent melancholy but initially pay her little attention. Eva, on the other hand, seems to accept the boys only. The guys are encouraged by Sando to perform increasingly risky acts as time goes on. Loonie loves this since it appeals to his character, but Pikelet, who is by nature more cautious, finds the continual testing of boundaries and competition to be nauseating. Without even warning Pikelet, Sando unexpectedly leaves for a surfing vacation in Bali with Loonie, and Pikelet can’t deny that the dynamics of their trio have changed—and not for the better.

Pikelet, who is left behind in Australia and is internally furious at Sando’s love for Loonie, turns to Eva to satisfy his teenage obsession and desire for approval. Pikelet is currently fifteen years old, and Eva is twenty-five. Their friendship develops into one that is sexual as a result of their shared experience of Sando’s disdain. Pikelet, an adolescent lad, is first thrilled by this, but it quickly wears off. Eva has a history of autoerotic asphyxiation and enjoys being choked. Pikelet soon finds her sexual urges repulsive. Pikelet starts to view his relationships with Loonie and Sando differently as he loses faith in Eva. After Sando has returned to Australia, for example, Pikelet one day notices Sando walking around in a speedo that he believes is improper for a guy his age. Pikelet then starts to observe a “creepiness” in Sando’s conduct that he has never seen before.

Much later, when Pike is an adult, he comes across a glowing magazine story about Sando, who has started a snowboarding company. He finds out that Loonie, an adrenaline addict to the very end, died in Mexico during a rumored drug deal and that Eva committed suicide. Pike considers his life and how his interactions with Loonie, Sando, & Eva as a teenager forever changed it. His eventual divorce and hospitalization in a psychiatric hospital are both attributed to the stress he underwent during that time. Despite these consequences, Bruce manages to have two healthy children and keeps surfing, but not as aggressively as he did with Sando.

Breath can be seen as a protracted meditation on the dangers of pursuing thrills. From Loonie’s early practical pranks to Sando’s life-threatening rides over the pounding surf to Eva’s sexual obsessions, for Winton, all of these practically entail breathing. And as Pike wonders at the book’s conclusion: “More than once… I’ve wondered whether the life-threatening mischief that Loonie & I and Sando as well as Eva got up to in the years of my adolescence were anything more than a rebellion against the monotony of drawing breath.” Winton demonstrates the significance of trauma in general to the formation of identity by making an involuntary bodily function the main motif of a book about a physically and emotionally traumatic coming-of-age experience.


What is Breath about?

Breath is a book about two friends who learn to surf and do daring things.

Where does Breath take place?

The story happens on the coast of Western Australia.

Why is Breath considered a classic Australian novel?

Breath is considered as a classic Australian novel because it captures both the beauty and danger of the Australian landscape, as well as the country’s distinct culture. The novel’s lyrical prose and well-developed characters are also noteworthy.

About the Author

Full NameTim Winton
Date of BirthAugust 4, 1960
Place of BirthPerth, Western Australia
OccupationNovelist, Short Story Writer
GenreContemporary Fiction, Australian Literature
Famous Works– Cloudstreet (1991)
– Dirt Music (2001)
– Breath (2008)
– The Riders (1994)
Writing StyleKnown for his evocative and lyrical prose

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