Well, I’m back. And I have to say there were times when I wondered if I would be. I switched to Patrick White’s Voss for my Australia read when I discovered that my original pick, The Man Who Loved Children, although written by an Australian author, takes place in Washington, DC. I didn’t want to have that represent my Australia experience, and so I am still listening to it on audio (and will let you know what I think at the end, but it is long, and I’m not in the car alone much), but switched to what seemed to be a more representative Australia read for my official Around the World in Books pick. In the end, I think my choice gave me a little too clear a sense of the desperation involved in an exploration of the Australian bush. I made it, and that is more than I can say for some of the characters in my book, but I wanted to start a mutiny much earlier in the journey than most of them did.
I decided not to put myself through Vegemite, and I also didn’t have any interest in eating the meat that the travelers were eating (or the grubs…), so I settled for buying some Pink Lady apples for my Aussie food. Then my family ate them before I had one, which is what I get for not eating enough fruit, but which also somehow fits this book and it’s world of deprivation. Below you will find the Goodreads summary of the book and then my reflections on it.
Goodreads: “In 1973, Australian writer Patrick White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature.” Set in nineteenth-century Australia, Voss is White’s best-known book, a sweeping novel about a secret passion between the explorer Voss and the young orphan Laura. As Voss is tested by hardship, mutiny, and betrayal during his crossing of the brutal Australian desert, Laura awaits his return in Sydney, where she endures their months of separation as if her life were a dream and Voss the only reality. Marrying a sensitive rendering of hidden love with a stark adventure narrative, Voss is a novel of extraordinary power and virtuosity from a twentieth-century master.”
It wasn’t until I was about 280 pages into this tale of an arrogant explorer and the woman who becomes emotionally attached to him that I wanted to be reading it. If it wasn’t on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, the author hadn’t won a Nobel, and I hadn’t been reading it for some challenges, I probably would have bailed on it somewhere much sooner. I didn’t particularly like most of the characters and therefore had a very hard time caring about their emotional and physical struggles. Still, by the end, I was eager to keep reading. I don’t entirely understand what made me begin to care about what the author was trying to say about human nature, love, society, exploration, and the country of Australia, nor am I at all sure I got what Patrick White wanted to convey, but I was glad I stuck with this book long past when most rational people would have simply abandoned the journey. Hmmm. Interesting sentence to write in a reflection on this particular book. This may be one to come back to and see what a second look would reveal.