The Australian book for the month of September was Voss, written by Patrick White. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973 for his ‘epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature”.
Voss won the first Miles Franklin Award in 1957 and has inspired the work of many Australian artists. It is generally accepted that the journey of Voss is based on that of the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt (1813-1848) whose final destination is unknown.
Voss opens in the Spring of 1845 at the house of a Sydney merchant, Mr Bonner. His niece Laura Trevelyan, a “flawless girl” is interrupted by her emancipist servant Rose Portion announcing the arrival of a distressed, shabby German man, Johann Ulrich Voss. Mr Bonner is sponsoring his expedition into the heart of Australia.
Voss and his party of oddly assorted men – including a poet, an ornithologist and an ex-convict – travel to the Hunter Valley, then the Darling Downs and west to the unknown interior of the country, where they are joined by some indigenous companions. It is quite clear from the beginning that on some level Voss is mad, but he is not interested in what others think of him. Although he and Laura meet only four times before his departure, this is a powerful love story.
The novel cuts back and forth from Voss and his expedition in the lost heart of rocks, gullies and silence, to Laura who goes about her life in Sydney living more and more in her dreams and fevered wanderings. Many letters are not even delivered – some are carelessly “ripped into shreds” by the indigenous Dugald in his disappointment to find only “pictures of fern roots” on the paper. Voss and Laura conduct a passionate affair through letter writing, dreams and telepathic conversations.
With thanks to Australian Classics by Jane Gleeson White 2007.
This was the first foray into reading Patrick White for some, and Voss was found to be a long and verbose work by a number of readers. Others loved the mystical writing and descriptive language.
Ratings: 3, 3.5, 3.5, 3, 2.5, 4.
Next month we will meet on the 14/8 at 6:30PM at Preece House, 50 Nerang St Bischof Pioneer Park, Nerang (next to 54 Nerang St. shops) to continue with this years’ list of Australian books. The book to be discussed will be The Commandant by Jessica Anderson.
Hope to see you all there and happy reading!
We are a group that gets together once a month to discuss good books. Each of us gets to choose a book on a rotational basis, preferably one outside our personal comfort zone – we try to keep the trash to ourselves. After the discussion, we comment on other books we read that month. Most of the time we remain friends after the meeting.
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