Here are two things to know about Jaxie Clackton, the unstoppable teenage hero of Tim Winton’s new novel. He once bashed a sackful of kittens to death but, at heart, he’s a decent boy. That’s the paradox central to The Shepherd’s Hut, an exhilarating and surprisingly uplifting exploration of what its author calls ‘toxic masculinity’, set against the awe-inspiring landscapes of Western Australia’s gold fields and saltpans.
Winton has written a book about finding hope in the most extreme circumstances, and Jaxie’s situation is nothing if not extreme. Mourning his mother, he lives in fear of his father (or Captain Wankbag as he calls him), a dodgy small-town butcher, the least of whose transgressions is