The Tree of Man by Patrick White

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/561413.The_Tree_Of_ManOriginally reviewed by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany

Everyday life with its inevitable, often annoying routine is what most of us gladly pass over in silence because it doesn’t seem worthwhile to lose a word about it or just a thought. Nonetheless, the greatest part of human existence is made up of it and at least sometimes we wonder whether there isn’t some unexpected meaning or purpose behind it all – like a secret plan of God or Destiny or whatever other seminal power. The Tree of Man by Patrick White, the Australian Nobel Prize-laureate in Literature of 1973, tells the story of a man who leads just the ordinary life of a hard-working farmer with wife, son and daughter in a changing world. He does what needs to be done and accepts all vicissitudes – joys as well as trials – with apparent stoicism although inwardly he wrestles all his life to reach a deeper understanding and find God.

Patrick White was born in London, United Kingdom, in May 1912 and grew up in Sydney, Australia. After boarding school in England he worked as a stockman in Australia for two years and then returned to England to study French and German literature. Still as a student he published his first volume of poetry and brought out some plays. After his father’s death in 1937, Patrick White became a full-time writer and reworked his first novel titled Happy Valley (1939). During a stay in New York City, USA, he wrote The Living and the Dead published in 1941 when he was already working as an intelligence officer for the British Royal Air Force in World War II. After the war, the novels The Aunt's Story (1948) and The Tree of Man (1955) received international acclaim, but in Australia his breakthrough as a novelist only came with Voss (1957) followed by his most famous works Riders in the Chariot (1961) and The Vivisector (1970). In 1973 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Best known among his later novels are The Eye of the Storm (1973), A Fringe of Leaves (1976) and The Twyborn Affair (1979). In 1981 he brought out his autobiography Flaws in the Glass: a self-portrait. Patrick White died in Sydney, Australia, in September 1990. 

The opening scene of The Tree of Man shows young Stan Parker who arrives at the piece of bushland far off any human dwelling that had belonged to his late father and that became his after the death of his mother. He owns nothing else except a dog, a horse, a cart and some tools to clear the place and build a hut to sleep in, but he is strong and knows what needs to be done and how. After a while, he takes Amy for his wife. For her this marriage means a turn for the better although life on the remote farm is hard and in addition quiet and lonely. Then others begin to settle down in the area and the community grows steadily despite fires, floods and droughts. Stan and Amy don’t talk much, but they feel strongly attached to each other – be it by love or just by habit. After several miscarriages Amy gives birth at last to a strong boy whom she calls Ray. 
“The father and mother would sometimes watch the sleeping child, and in this way were united again, as they were not when he was awake. Released from this obsessive third life that they seemed to have created, the lives that they had lived and understood were plain as cardboard. Affection is less difficult than love. But the sleeping baby moved his head, and the parents were again obsessed by vague fear, the mother that she might not ride the storms of love, the father that he would remain a stranger to his son.” 
Before long they also have a daughter called Thelma, but she is a delicate girl. In other respects too Ray and Thelma could hardly be more different, he being naughty and wild, she good and quiet. Grown-up they share, however, a craving for the pleasures and riches denied them on the farm. Ray leaves without a word to make his fortune in the world, but the dishonest and cruel streak of his nature soon gets him into trouble. Thelma, on the other hand, starts a career in the city that allows her to hook herself a wealthy husband. Meanwhile, Stan and Amy Parker become older following the same farm routines as ever in a neighbourhood that has changed into the suburb of a big city… 

The setting of The Tree of Man in time and place is vague although concluding from a few place names and plot elements like the appearance of motor cars on the roads or the war against Germany it should be New South Wales between 1920 and 1955. The plot flows gently and quietly like the ordinary life of any farmer in the Australian bush, an impression that is heightened by the fact that Stan and Amy Parker are often referred to only as the man and the woman. Unexpected turns and twists of fate are rare even when it comes to natural forces striking the country and calling for action. This is because the author’s focus clearly is on the Parker family, notably Stan, and their understanding of life, of each other and of themselves. The novel has been called a domestic narrative, a fable, even folklore, but much rather it’s a character or social study of the Australian soul merging the experience of life in an inhospitable country with the heritage of European civilisation. It’s also a story about being at a loss for words to communicate with others and to express, i.e. understand the inner self. By contrast the author’s language is highly poetic and rich in powerful images that make the book an intriguing as well as impressive experience.

There can be no doubt that The Tree of Man by Patrick White is a challenging read that reveals its full charm only to those who are receptive to the meaning hidden between the lines and to its spiritual dimension showing above all in the sublime descriptions of stunning Australian landscape. It may help to read the poem from A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman from which the author took the novel’s title and quoted several verses although I didn’t bother to search for it until I set out to write this review… I enjoyed the book despite all. Admittedly, it took me a while to get into this read, but it definitely was worth it.

Original post on Edith's Miscellany:

Download FREE November @ReadNobels Wallpaper: Pablo Neruda's Love


{Apologies this is late. originally posted on Guiltless Reading.}

November ...time to change up our calendar for Read the Nobels.

If this is the first time you're hearing about this, these calendar wallpapers are a fun monthly project I cooked up for myself and is a sneaky way of promoting the Read the Nobels Reading Challenge for 2016. I select an author who has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, a book cover, and a quote.

Two more months to continue reading for this challenge for the year! So, how are you doing with the challenge? I still haven't done much personally with the challenge but with the research comes a much longer and much more informed TBR -- after all I am in this for the long haul as the Read the Nobels Challenge is a perpetual challenge.

This November, I am featuring a poet, one of the few in the Nobel Prize for Literature laureates. The winner for 1971 is Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet-diplomat-politician. The cover below is from his book Love: Poems from the Film Il Postino.* Not surprisingly, the movie is about Neruda. Have you watched it?

You can read more about Beckett and his work here:

Do you like poetry? Have you read any of Neruda's work?



Download the November Read the Nobels wallpaper!


Right click image, download, and set as your desktop wallpaper. Voila! #ReadNobels makes an appearance on your computer! (Note: Wallpaper for personal use only.)

* Affiliate links


Past wallpapers:
Get some Nobel Prize winning literature in your reading lists! All it takes is one book for the entire year. Click to join the challenge RIGHT HERE!

Read the Nobels 2016

Surprise, Surprise! A Nobel Bard

Paul Gaughin (1848-1903),
via Wikimedia Commons

Le Joueur de Guitare,
Portrait de Francisco Durrio
,
c. 1900,
oil on canvas 90 × 72 cm
private collection, London
Originally featured by Edith LaGraziana
on Edith's Miscellany

Since I’m participating in Guiltless Reading’s Read the Nobels 2016 challenge (by the way, why don’t you sign up? There’s still time for some Nobel reads this year! I’m sure that among 113 laureates you’ll find at least one to your taste. Just check my list here) and republishing regularly my Nobel reviews on the Read the Nobels blog, I was particularly anxious to know who would receive this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. On 13 October 2016 the spokeswoman of the Swedish Academy finally appeared before the press and startled the world with the announcement that the prestigious award will go to the American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan. Admittedly, he is known to have stood outsider chances already for some time, but who would have bet on him to actually win – ever? After all, music and literature are separate arts, aren’t they? Not as separate as it may seem at first sight.

Download October @ReadNobels Wallpaper featuring Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot

  • Saturday, October 1, 2016


Originally posted on Guiltless Reading.

It's October - time to change up our calendar for Read the Nobels.

If this is the first time you're hearing about this, these calendar wallpapers are a fun monthly project I cooked up for myself and is a sneaky way of promoting the Read the Nobels Reading Challenge for 2016. I select an author who has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, a book cover, and a quote.

I have been making slow progress with the challenge but it is still very much on my mind. The Read the Nobels blog continues to get a slow but steady stream of reviews and visits. How are you doing with the challenge?

Samuel Beckett
(photo from Wikipedia)
For October, I am featuring 1969 Nobel Prize Laureate Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (In French: En Attendent en Godot). I admit that I know little about this Irish born author who entered the literary world via Paris and wrote in French! Waiting on Godot, a play published in 1952, is subtitled "a tragicomedy on two acts."

If the title seems familiar,  it has been made into a movie (see below) and a play (starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart!).

On the Read the Nobels blog, only two of Beckett's works have been reviewed so far, namely Worstward Ho and Endgame. 

You can read more about Beckett and his work here:

Have you read any of Beckett's work?




Download the October Read the Nobels wallpaper!

Right click image, download, and set as your desktop wallpaper. Voila! #ReadNobels makes an appearance on your computer! (Note: Wallpaper for personal use only.)




* Affiliate links


Have you ever heard of Anatole France?

Past wallpapers:
Get some Nobel Prize winning literature in your reading lists! All it takes is one book for the entire year. Click to join the challenge RIGHT HERE!

Read the Nobels 2016
·
OLDER



© Read the NobelsMaira Gall