Tim Winton S The Riders Essay Contest

First edition cover

AuthorTim Winton
Cover artistMary Callahan

Publication date

Media typePrint (Cloth)

Dewey Decimal

823 20
LC ClassPR9619.3.W585 R5 1994

The Riders (1994) is a novel by Australian author Tim Winton published in 1994. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1995. Winton has won several literary awards.

Plot summary[edit]

The Riders tells the story of an Australian man, Fred Scully, and his 6-year-old daughter Billie. Scully, as he is known, and his wife Jennifer have planned to move from Australia to a cottage they have purchased in Ireland. His wife and daughter are due to arrive in Ireland but at the airport only Billie arrives, traumatised and unable to tell her father what has happened or why her mother put her on the plane alone. The story follows Scully and Billie as they travel around Europe retracing the steps of their previous travel, trying to find Jennifer and work out why she left them.[1]


Iain Grandage, who wrote the music for adaptation of The Riders as an opera, described the novel as follows" "At its heart, The Riders is about the nature of love. It deals with questions of how well we can truly know someone; how well we can truly know ourselves."[2]


A review in the Kirkus Review stated that, "Emotions, character, and intellect so perfectly calibrated that a modest story of love betrayed becomes, in Winton's hands, a minor masterpiece."[1]

The Publishers Weekly described the novel as a 'suspense thriller" and a "gut-wrenching love story" and praise his descriptions of landscapes, the energy of his prose and call Winton "stunnung".[3]



An opera based on the novel, with libretto by Alison Croggon and music by Iain Grandage, was premiered in Melbourne in September 2014.[4]


The rights to the novel were secured by Susie Brooks-Smith in 2000. It was announced in 2012[5] that filming would soon begin but the project has not proceeded.[6]



 Australian writer Winton (Cloudstreet, 1992, etc.), back for a 14th book, notes with humor and intelligent affection the havoc domestic cruelties wreak on the loving heart. In language deceptively simple and true--his dialogue hardly ever strikes a false note--Winton tells the story of Australian Fred Scully, a man with ``his big heart there in his shirt,'' who comes close to madness as he searches for his missing wife, Jennifer. Scully has a face that though ``severely used was warm and handsome in its way...was the face of an optimist, of a man eager to please and happy to give ground.'' Believing in life's endless possibilities, Scully has in 30 years tried many things- -truck driving, fishing, college--and now, in present time, is rebuilding a neglected cottage in Ireland. The cottage--bought on impulse after spending two years in Europe while Jennifer, a dissatisfied and self-absorbed civil servant, tried to find herself--is to be their new home. And while Scully fixes it up, Jennifer and daughter Billie return to Australia to sell their house. Scully, who is soon befriended by the local mailman, works hard to get the house finished in time for his wife and daughter's return, but when he goes to the airport to meet them, only Billie is there. Exhausted and in a state of shock, she refuses to talk, and the next day a desperately hurt, confused Scully sets off with his daughter to find Jennifer--a wrenchingly bitter journey of body and soul that takes the pair to Greece, Italy, Paris, and finally to Amsterdam. There, with the help of the remarkably loving and resilient Billie, Scully regains his senses, realizing at last that he can no longer waste his life ``waiting for something promised.'' Emotions, character, and intellect so perfectly calibrated that a modest story of love betrayed becomes, in Winton's hands, a minor masterpiece.

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