The Nobel Prize in Literature 1973 was awarded to Patrick White "for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature".
I didn’t think that I would ever get to read Patrick White’s debut novel Happy Valley. White suppressed it for fear of litigation and perhaps also because he thought it flawed, so copies were rare and (of course) well out of my price-range. But now in a bumper year for ‘new’ books by this author, along with White’s unfinished The Hanging Garden published posthumously byKnopf/Random House, Happy Valley has been reissued by Text Classics. And what a treat it is…
People with not much better to do with their time and opinions argue, sometimes, about Patrick White. It’s a no-win situation because readers of popular fiction and the occasional academic who would rather read a phone book than Voss soon clutter up the Comments space complaining that Nobel Prizewinners are generally not worth reading, that White’s Modernism is too highbrow or that his prose is ‘stultifying’. (Turgid is also a favourite pejorative). I can only feel pity for these people. I can understand why they may not enjoy White, because reading after all is a matter of personal taste. What I don’t understand is why they want to spend their time attacking a dead author who has brought prestige to Australian writing and who ‘is widely regarded as one of the most important English-language novelists of the 20th century.’
Anyway, it’s their loss. Don’t let them put you off reading Happy Valley. It’s a delicious portrait of small town life, and an engaging, accessible story that reminds me of Thea Astley at her acerbic best.
To read my review, please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2012/11/13/happy-valley-by-patrick-white/.
I read and blogged my review on November 13, 2012.