Though the odds would be pitiful, a betting person might wager that on the 25th of December a copy of Tim Winton's latest novel Eyrie waited beneath the Christmas tree of a significant number of Australian households. After all, in just over two months Eyrie reportedly managed to top the literary bestseller list for 2013, with a remarkable 84,900 copies sold following its October release.

As a reader who, like literary critic Kerryn Goldsworthy, has long been bothered by Winton's characterisation of women, I was determined to avoid Eyrie. I left Winton behind for good on this page last year (''Misogyny lurks in Winton's world of fiction'', August 1), wanting no further knowledge of his women, or his men.

Most particularly I wanted nothing more to do with Winton's working-class boofhead blokes, expertly mismatched with their educated middle-class partners, in his last three novels, Breath, Dirt Music and The Riders. There are only so many times you can tolerate reading about women rendered bereft of friends, family, career, children and absolution.

Such resolve promptly sank just days after Christmas when I joined my first book club. The inaugural text was Eyrie, because, of course, my book club companion had been given a copy for Christmas.

Lucky then, that Eyrie presents Winton's most comprehensive, sympathetic and generous characterisations of women.

But Eyrie is burdened not only with central character Tom Keely's hangover and the not-so-quiet desperation of his ugly apartment block, but a jarring range of similes, metaphors and general overwriting that never quite gel with Keely's character.

For instance, Keely ''peeled back the lids with a gospel gasp and levered himself upright and bipedal if not immediately ambulatory''. Later there's ''a coffee upon whose bronzed crema a spoonful of sugar might wallow, like a cherub upon a cloud''.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Eyrie, though, is the casting of Keely as an environmental activist, and commentary about the West Australian mining boom. Although Winton is himself a well-known coastal activist, his views have not often permeated his writing.

Yet while the pro-environment, anti-mining rhetoric is arguably subtle when viewed against the broader context of Eyrie, the veiled comments about Gina Rinehart and her late father, Lang Hancock, are not. It's the utterly predictable bashing of two of our most prominent mining entrepreneurs who are not only the direct and indirect employers of thousands of Australians - as are their mining industry colleagues - but also the creators of a significant part of our national wealth. Such national wealth funds things such as Australia Council grants for writers like Winton: because without financial wealth a nation cannot afford cultural wealth.

And it is here, in the debate about how Australia should obtain its national wealth, that the claim that Eyrie is a ''novel for our times'' rings true. The intrusion of environmental activism and regulation on the activities of legitimate businesses such as mining, farming, forestry and fishing is stifling Australian innovation and wealth creation.

We should, therefore, reflect on Eyrie, in conjunction with Nick Cater's book The Lucky Culture, and Donald Horne's The Lucky Country in this its 50th anniversary year, and ask ourselves what sort of nation we want to be. Do we want to be a nation of lifters or leaners? Entrepreneurs or environmentalists? Wealth creators or wealth takers?

Nicolle Flint is an an Age columnist and a PhD candidate at Flinders University. She has previously worked for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is a member of the Liberal Party.