The Boy Behind the Curtain


Tim Winton

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The Boy Behind the Curtain Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Tim Winton's The Boy Behind the Curtain. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Tim Winton

Tim Winton spent the first part of his childhood in Perth, Western Australia. When he was 12, his family moved south to the Western Australia city of Albany. Winton attended the Western Australian Institute of Technology, now called Curtin University, and studied creative writing. It was there that he wrote his first novel, An Open Swimmer, which marked the start of a successful literary career. Winton has gone on to publish several novels, four of which won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award. He has also written works of nonfiction, plays, and children’s books. Though Winton is widely involved in campaigns to protect Australia’s natural habitats and species, he rarely makes public appearances except to promote these causes or at the launch of a new book. He lives in Western Australia with his wife.
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Historical Context of The Boy Behind the Curtain

Winton’s essays in The Boy Behind the Curtain draw explicit attention to the experiences that prompted Winton to write them. “The Battle for Ningaloo Reef” is a relatively straightforward narrative of Winton’s experience campaigning for the isolated Ningaloo Reef off Australia’s western coast, while “Using the C-word” deals with contemporary Australian perspectives on class disparity and inequality. Over the period of these essays’ development, stories of assault and violence toward captive refugees on Manus Island and Nauru came to international media outlets’ attention, prompting “Stones for Bread,” which Winton originally delivered as a speech for the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice in 2015. The essays are inextricably linked with Australia’s political climate and often provide opportunities for Winton to dissent or encourage his fellow Australians to work toward change.

Other Books Related to The Boy Behind the Curtain

Many of the essays in this collection detail events in Winton’s life that have made their way into his fiction. Winton’s 1995 novel The Riders is an example of this—it follows a family that relocates from Australia to a cottage in Ireland, a move that echoes Winton’s family’s stay at Leap Castle in Ireland, which Winton explores in the essay “Letter from a Strong Place.” In “The Demon Shark,” Winton focuses on Peter Matthiessen’s nonfiction work Blue Meridian, which forms the basis for much of his fascination with sharks and the mysteries of oceanic life. A similar essay collection that deals with class, place, and the Australian life is Eda Gunaydin’s Root & Branch, which chronicles Gunaydin’s working-class upbringing in an outer suburb of a large city—mirroring Winton’s childhood—and her surprisingly sudden transition to the middle class that came along with her PhD studies at university.
Key Facts about The Boy Behind the Curtain
  • Full Title: The Boy Behind the Curtain: Notes from an Australian Life
  • When Written: 2007–2016
  • Where Written: Western Australia
  • When Published: 2016
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Autobiography, Essay Collection
  • Setting: Western Australia
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for The Boy Behind the Curtain

The Winton Fish. In 2016, a pair of Melbourne University researchers discovered 20 new species of fish in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and decided to name one after Tim Winton. Winton commented that it was a “great honor” that the scientists chose him, and not a scientist, to be the namesake of one of the species.

Repeat Winner. Winton is one of only two authors to have won the Miles Franklin Award four times. The other four-time winner is Thea Astley.