Narrator Humphrey Bower's moody, lyrical performance is shot through with nervy energy as teenaged protagonist Jerra Nilsam comes to grips with the bittersweet moments of adulthood. Jerra's family wants him to finish university and settle down with a girl, but Jerra has dark shadows in his conscience, and a camping trip with his best friend Sean brings them out into the light. Bower's voice wraps itself around the rich language of the story as the two friends encounter an old man whose conscience is even more burdened than Jerra's and find the tight knot of their friendship unraveling. Listeners will be haunted by Bower's vivid evocation of the story's painful yet cathartic climax.
Jerra and his best mate Sean set off in a beaten-up old VW to go camping on the coast. Jerra's friends and family want to know when he will finish university, when he will find a girl. But they don't understand about Sean's mother, Jewel, or the bush or the fish with the pearl. They think he needs a job, but what Jerra is searching for is more elusive. Only the sea, and perhaps the old man who lives in a shack beside it, can help. An Open Swimmer is a remarkable first novel by award-winning author Tim Winton.