Monday, March 17, 2008

Voss - Patrick White

Voss is a remarkable book. White's language here is at its simplest and most direct, his story is brutal and wrenching. Set in the mid-nineteenth century White relates the story of Voss, a German who sets out to cross the Australian continent. With a ragtag group he sets out on his ill-advised adventure organized and supported by the wealthy Sydney resident Edmund Bonner. The counterpart to the story of Voss' journey is that of Laura Trevelyan, the Bonner's orphaned niece.

Laura and Voss are soulmates, realizing only after Voss has finally set off that they belong to each other. Voss proposes in a letter, and Laura waits for him. It is a heartbreaking romance, the two strong-willed individuals, both outsiders, binding their fates together. An unlikely romance, it is haunting and touching. To add to its scope Laura also gets a child, sweet Mercy, in one of White's elegant plot twists.
The story is remarkable, and remarkably well-told. Neater than many of White's novels, the story unfolds with subtle perfection. It is finely crafted, perfectly structured, despairingly eloquent. It is a beautiful romance.
White's common leaps of time are less bothersome here than elsewhere in his fiction. It is a weighty book -- long, occasionally ponderous -- and it requires some patience. That said: it is near-perfect, and highly recommended to one and to all.

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