The Riders – Tim Winton

The first Tim Winton novel I’ve read that hasn’t been set in Australia, and I’m still trying to work out whether the European setting for this novel affected my reading of it, or his writing of it. Full marks to the Barbican library for stocking it in any event, and luck that I spotted it in my pre-holiday library book selection spree.

It is very different from his other novels – I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I fully appreciate the signficance of the title, or the scene in the novel it refers to, and within the book there were lots of unknowns and questions that remain unanswered when you reach the end.

One thing that has stayed with even after finishing the book is the way in which Tim Winton conveys the changing feelings and reactions the main character, Scully, as events unfold and his life unravels. From the excitement and apprehension of taking on a run down old cottage in a remote part of Ireland, to the frantic return to and flight from Greece and the increasingly surreal and unreal times in Paris and Amsterdam where the atmosphere becomes more claustrophobic and chaotic.

Buy it: Amazon link

32 thoughts on “The Riders – Tim Winton”

  1. The Riders by Tim Winton is potentially the shittest novel i have ever read. If anyone sees Mr Winton in the near future let him know that i will be suing him for the 5 hours he stole from me whilst i was reading his shit book.

  2. I wasted a whole day of my life reading this useless piece of garbage, personally i find seal clubbing far more appealing than reading this useless piece of garbage. thanks for nothing.

  3. No one made any of you read it. But in the unlikely circumstance that they did, you should be suing them instead of Tim Winton. I personally enjoyed it because of the many layers and different translations that people have gotten out of it. It is very reminiscent of the cult film Donny Darko in that way where everyone can have their own interpretation of the story and everyone can get something different out of it.

  4. I found the novel mesmerising and engrossing.
    You can’t just read it, you have look further into its meaning and then suddenly you realise the wealth of knowledge Winton hands to you and the delicate, beautifully worded chapters, showing the lonely and wanting.
    I’d recommend it as long as your willing to put in the effort to understand it and enjoy it.

  5. It is quite rare to find a book as thoroughly dreadful as The Riders. I wasted a day of my holiday reading this piece of ‘shit lit’. The narrative is at about the level one can expect to be produced by a badly educated child with a drug addiction. Why why why…? In one sense, the book is a real page turner, because I couldn’t wait to finish it and read something good. I have attempted to look further into the meaning of this story and arrived at the conclusion that there isn’t one, it’s basically the meaningless rantings of someone who has happened to spend a bit of time travelling around Europe and for some reason wanted to inflict his experience on people in the form of a novel. There should be laws against that kind of thing.

  6. Clearly those that didn’t like the book have never read any of Tim Winton’s books before.

    Maybe you are more comfortable with trashy crime novels than the beautiful writing of Tim Winton.

    I’ve only just started reading the book, my first Winton novel in 6 years, and can’t wait to get further into it!

    Here’s to a truly brilliant author!

  7. Hi Audrey
    I agree – Tim Winton is a brilliant author. However I didn’t like The Riders but it’s the only one of Tim Winton’s novels that I haven’t loved. It’s the only one I’ve read not set in Western Australia, and I’ve always seen it as a bit of an experiment on the author’s part; one which for whatever reason he’s not repeated.

  8. ‘The Riders’ was a set part of the curriculum for year 11 advanced English. I read it and disliked it. The plot seemed non-existent, the characters vulgar and ‘women are self absorbed’ seemed to be the thematic throughout. As the story continues it seems that Scully becomes more disconnected from Billie, as though blaming her for the absence of his wife and as a result she is mauled by a dog and goes on to receive no proper medical care. Weather I am ignorant and have failed to read deep enough into the novel, I am unsure. Although I am sure of my feelings toward the novel-it was horrible.

  9. I am so pleased to read other comments reflecting my own disappointment with this book. Unfortunately this is the first Tim Winton book I have read, having only recently had him recommended. I was left completely confused, and still cannot understand the title and the reference to the riders. Can anyone PLEASE indicate the connection? What am I missing?

  10. I love Tim Winton as an author,have always enjoyed his books,however The Riders to me was a put down book halfway thru.Enjoyed the first half set in Ireland ,however after he has seen the Riders and next thing goes to meet wife and daughter,a daughter who will not speak and a wife who is not there,why why why!!!.To me it all falls to pieces.Marj I am not able to associate the Riders with the rest of the book as I was not prepared to plod on with it,I read to enjoy!.Please do not give up on Tim Winton,try Cloud Street and you will know what I mean.
    Rave reviews of the Riders,but not from me and others that I have observed on this thread.

  11. Very disappointed in The Riders,I liked it when it was in the setting in Ireland,say to the first half. After that it lost me,after that the big mystery sets in IE where is wife Jennifer and why will his daughter not speak to him,after he collects her from the plane from Australia.

    Marj do not give up on Tim Winton,especially Cloud Street.


  12. I have just finished The Riders, I would really like some more information about “The Riders”. I found the end of the book very disappointing.
    Really enjoyed the first half of the book and could not put it down till I had finished it.

    Am really disappointed in Scully and his lack of care provided to his daughter and would have liked some more answers.

    I did feel it was a good look at the perspective of men and their feelings when a relationship ends and am pleased that men are able to have feelings, just wish they could express them more.

  13. I am sooo glad I found this site! I thought The Riders was the worst book I have ever read.
    stories should have a “start, middle, and end” This book just went on and on and never reached a conclusion.
    And I, like many others, have no clue what the riders were, or were supposed to represent.
    All in all a sad book, about sad people, and a very sad child.
    Several people have offered excuses………….sorry, paid for the book, want to like an Aussie author, not happening.

  14. Hi Riki/mummamills
    Try any of Tim Winton’s other novels – this one is a real anomaly!

  15. I have just finished The Riders. I don’t know that I fully appreciate the significance of them either, but i’m not sure i mind. There are however, definite parallels. Like Scully and Billie, they’re bloody, bruised, tired. Like Scully and Billie, they are waiting; we don’t know what they are waiting for, but its not Jennifer, like our two protagonists. Perhaps the riders represent Scully and Billie and everything they have experienced and fought for across Europe. Crucially though, unlike the Riders returning to the castle every night, they move on. They leave the riders. What was Scully whispering to them – suggesting they do the same? I thought perhaps the riders symbolised Scully and Billie deciding not to spend a lifetime waiting for her to return to this home he built them. Afterall, a man’s home is his castle…

  16. I could not put the book down. Tim Winton is a poet and his description of fatherly love for a daughter and daughterly love for a father are unsurpassed. His books are true poetry and I hope he keeps them coming!

  17. I just finished reading the book as part of my year 11 Extension English course, relating it to The Odyssey archetype.

    A few people have questioned what the significance of the riders is, or what they represent. Firstly, they are ghosts, but they are physical ghosts – they smell, make noise etc. We were taught (and read interviews with Winton) that the riders are a physical manifestation of the fate that awaits Scully if he goes on with his course of action. They are almost a warning.

    They are there every night, they’re there forever. The challenge to Scully is to move past that moment of anger and hurt and outrage which he inhabits for most of the book.

    Personally, I can appreciate Winton’s style of writing. I enjoy his descriptions and adore Billie. But Jennifer and Scully irritate me, I found myself constantly angry at Jennifer for being so… selfish and Scully for being so blind to his daughter and his annoying devotion to Jen. which I cannot appreciate.

    I did find that difficult to overcome, though I think it has deeper meanings and more to it than meets the eye.

  18. I agree with Catherine about the actual riders, but, call me thick, what is supposed to have happened to his wife? Billie kept referring to her hardening up and becoming like a statue – did she die on the plane? Did she simply just leave Billie at the airport? I thought that at the very least that part of the story would be explained.
    Btw, I read Cloudstreet first – by recommendation – and loved it. But, having read nearly all of his books now, I think Dirt Music by far is the best ever! This one, though – The Riders – whilst I fully appreciate, and love, his brilliant style of writing, the wife thing frustrated the hell out of me!

  19. Just listened to this on CD from the local library (thank God I didn’t waste money on it). With high expectations from the beginning chapters, and ignoring some basic questions in regard to plot, why was Billie unable to talk to Scully? Why set off on a hunt across Europe without making a few enquiries first? What did the Riders at the castle have to do with anything? Who was the visitor with the pointy shoes to the house boat? What was the meaning of the two boys chasing the Train? I unfortunatly found the ending to be a complete let down. In an effort to help the others who were left wondering about the significance of the Riders, I believe they represent the readers of this “novel” and their expectations for a decent conclusion that was never going to come.

  20. Harriet, a few years back I did an analysis of this novel for one of my assignments & I reached a similiar interpretation/comparison of the “riders” as you did. Unfortunately, my English teacher told me that I did not have an in-depth understanding of the novel and that the novel was too complicated for me to comprehend at my year level(I was in year 12 then)–yet she failed to explain to me what the crux of the novel was. I tried to find the hidden message, and developed differing interpretations,but I did so in vain. If anyone has found that hidden layer, please do share!

  21. After reviewing the above, it seems the general consenus is that this book was only published because of Winton’s previous sucesses. I would tend to concur. This novel fails on so many levels that one can only assume the positive reviews are by die-hard Winton fans unwilling to concede that thier favourite author is fallable. All due respect to Winton for his other literary efforts, but this one is no more than a rambling pictorial of Europe (excessively so) with no discernable plot and the lack of a satisfying conclusion. I was extremely irritated with myself that I did not abandon this book after the half-way mark.

  22. I’ve just finished reading the Riders and thought it was brilliant on many levels.

    From Pete the Postie’s reaction, to Scully working with an IRA gang through to his “meltdown”.

    To those that said the book left them with unanswered questions … life does that sometimes.

    To those that were disappointed in Scully’s treatment of his daughter – yes that is what you are supposed to feel – and btw he was disappointed in himself, but he couldn’t stop himself.

    To those that said it didn’t have a plot – no comment.

    To those that didn’t “get” the riders – read it again.

    I’m only posting this because I would hate for someone interested in reading the book to find the negative comments here and take them for a representative view of what people really think about the book.

    It will disturb and it will change you.

  23. I have enjoyed other Tim Winton novels but this was crap. I know the part of Ireland he describes intimately. His descriptions were clumsy and loaded with Australian misconceptions about Ireland and Irish people. Most of his comments about it were insulting and derogatory, in a way I find people are when they dont really care or know what they are talking about. I can only imagine that the same may be true about Greece, Paris and Amsterdam.
    I wish I had not purchased it and wasted time reading it, desperately waiting for something believable to happen. Characters do not have to be likeable but they should at least be believable and real. Scully did not achieve this.

  24. I totally agree with a previous comments, this is one of the most pretentious, pointless novels ever written and certainly the worst book I have ever read.

    It is self indulgent, with no recognisable plot. The descriptions of Ireland and other European cities are cliched and two dimensional.

    I do not agree with cee’s posting where she says that Winton’s description of fatherly love for a daughter and daughterly love for a father are unsurpassed. – You have got to be kidding! Scully’s treatment of his daughter was at best irresponsible; not seeking medical treatment when she is mauled by a dog, having sex with Irma whilst Billie is asleep in the same room – to name but two examples.

    A piece of utter drivel that should be consigned to the rubbish heap.

  25. Have just finished reading the novel,which I was not able to put down until the end . The ending was a bit of a letdown for me too, as I would have liked Jennifer to materialise or some things explained at least.
    I was left with the feeling that most of the meaning of the novel escaped me. Have no clue as to who the riders might be or what they might mean

  26. I think that this book is very clever. For those that appreciate it it makes you think hard about lots of things. As to the negative comments above i disagree. You need to remember that this is a factual document. The representation of different people from different countries is a personal opinion that Tim has incorporated into his book. I think those comments above illistrate the personality of those people. They cannot accept the fact that perhaps in life you can not always know everything and not everything actually has an ending that presents itself clearly. Life does not have set rules that must go accordingly, sometimes we need to make out of life the best that we can and this book is a perfect illistration of this. Pete quotes that theres things that have no finish and no ending to speak of, there is no justice to it but thats the truth, the only end some things have is the end you give them.
    This is an important lesson to learn in life and it has certainly changes how i think about things. When i first read the book i was frustrated and i didnt like it. So i read it again to make more sense out of it, and once i thought about it thoroughly i understood its purpose. If you cannot accept the fact that not all endings are written for you then this is not the book for you. Altogether a very inspirational novel. Thankyou Tim for opening my eyes.

  27. Read it, loved it. Was at first confused and let down at the ending…. but time heals and can look back and think about the poetry and the vitality in the writing. Life doesn’t leave us with neat endings and happy ever afters – there’s only the journey. Enjoy the book, it’s not perfect buts it’s more interesting and rewarding than a Hollywood screenplay any day.

    Ps the Irish don’t really sit around drinking guinness and just eating spuds for dinner – even in the godless West!

  28. I strongly agree with all that disliked this book. I had to read it for school and while many school books are not always very good i found this one terrible. It frustrated me all through the book and when I finally finish I am left with no answers I am instead left having to write an essay about sense of place. If i had enjoyed this book I am sure i would be much more capable of completing this essay. i find tim winton describes everything far to much is it really nessacary to have a full page just describing one small thing, also is it needed to know about scully’s balls quite so often. After reading thsi i do not plan to read any more of Tim Winton’s works. If I was jennifer I too would have left Scully I found him a very dislikable character. I alsl feel very sorry for all future readers of this book but maybe it is just me and all the future readers will enjoy reading about Scully running around the world to find his wife. The plot sounds good if only the story was. The peoplke that liek this book raise good points but to me it felt like a waste of time.

  29. If you want to understand the significance of the riders – just google it and you will find the information about this European myth of a vision of riders and chaotic quests of doom.

  30. I thought the riders a deep insight into ones
    inner emotions having lived a similar experiance.buying a derelict cottage in Ireland close to an abandoned large haunting place with weird statues where one could imagine anything in the sea mists which hung. I was trying to come to terms with a lost love and the cottage was my one stable anker which will remain always.

  31. What the f–k great start, confusing middle and as far as the end goes mouth agape and searching for missing pages, normally love Tim Winton but this one has left me very confused but cant stop thinking about book though, very interesting ?????

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