VOSS by Patrick White


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There is immense challenge in the substance of this novel of Australia's wilderness and the strange, tortured man, Voss, who-back in 1850- led an ill-assorted expedition into the unknown. Voss was a German, a mystery man who managed to win backing without trust or liking. His chief backer was a rancher-promoter named Bonner- and it is here the story starts. Here, too, are planted the seeds of the story within the story, the strange, remote romance between Bonner's impecunious niece, Laura Trevelyan, and the man Voss. Bonner was a resident of Sydney, a busy colonial town, where the women were absorbed in the petty details of a self conscious social whirl. While this went on, the plans grew for the expedition into the uncharted wilderness; the applicants were accepted, the equipment collected, and finally the expedition sets forth. Bit by bit one gets to know the eccentricities, the lack of adaptability of one after another. There's a stopover for supplies at one elaborately equipped ranch- at another sparsely equipped one- and at each new members join the group. Hardshipe, dangers, insecurities bring out the worst, until the group splits into two sectors, separates, and all is lost. Only two natives-and one white- make a modicum of escape. While back in Sydney, the backers are fed sparse information and Laura lives for the rare letters- senses disaster- and accepts a future of unwedded widowhood...One needs perspective to grasp the achievement of this book, for- in even greater degree than I felt it in The Tree of Man White has chosen to tell his story in the most involuted, oblique fashion, often seeming awkward and confused, so that the process of reading it is a burden. That he has been accepted as Australia's foremost novelist is somewhat baffling to our public. This has been chosen as August Book of the Month-which may take it over the first hurdle.

ISBN: 014310568X
Publisher: Viking