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The Living And The Dead Paperback – 5 Sep 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (5 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099324318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099324317
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Scene after scene is worked out with exactness and subtlety which no second-string novelist can scent, far less nail to paper" (Daily Telegraph)

"An unmistably major writer who commands a scope, power and sheer technical skill which put other more ambitious novelists into the shade" (A. Alvarez)

"Brilliant and masterful" (Nation)

From the Back Cover

Set in thirties London, The Living and the Dead portrays the complex ebb and flow of relationships within the Standish family. Mrs Standish, ageing but still beautiful, is drawn into secret liaisons, while her daughter Eden experiments openly with left-wing politics and love affairs. Only the son, Elyot, remains an aloof and scholarly observer - until dramatic events shock him into sudden self-knowledge.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Patrick White's novels are always, to say the least, enigmatic. This early work, set in pre-war London is no exception at all. The story revolves around the romantic dalliances of a young girl, Eden Standish and her tired, ageing mother. Psychology takes precedence over narrative here. Throughout he sustains an atmosphere of mystery while offering an almost Joycean tour inside the heads of his main characters. The delight is in the sensuousness and exquisite sense of irony that is maintained throughout. White is precise and often disturbing in his insights, though never patronising. His characters are not fashionable people, and they live their lives in an atmosphere of utter dreariness. This comes through in an early observation that the city is "emotionally commonplace........very little to distinguish the individual feature in the flow of the confused sea that was anybody's London." Out of this greyness emerge the most extraordinary individuals, indistinguishable to the naked eye, but glimpsed through the author's microscope. Like Carver, White created near-myths from the daily dramas of Everyman and Everywoman.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Grim, but brilliant 14 April 2011
By Harry - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fascinating. Extraordinary. Patrick White exploring with style, early in his illustrious career. Delves deep into the darkest, saddest and most forlorn corners of the characters. A grim, grim book - reflective of the dangerous times in which it was written (1941 London). Be sure and re-read chapter one on completion of the book, for some sense of hope or redemption. Not suitable for the eternal optimists or those looking for an easy read.
Dazzling White 5 Aug. 2014
By An admirer of Saul - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Elyot Standish is completely alone once his sister departs for Spain. Looking back at the life of his family, from when Willy Standish marries Kitty Goose, their estrangement, his recollection of a row, his stubborn minded sister, Eden, and all the unrequited love and misplaced relationships and his own aversion to feelings....Death visits many times, but Elyot has been dead for some time; emotionally incapable of living...
A complex and dark story that is everything-ideas themes and style-that Patrick White developed through his novels. The intricate detail of events and emotions that ingrain themselves so strongly that when a moment is recalled-vaguely almost-some hundred pages later, the image is there in your mind. The way events and social pressures to conform inhibit our desires , our natural self.
I have to confess I am a 'White Addict'. I know his themes and I love his writing style and I found 'The Living and the Dead'-for all its bleakness-yet another superlative White masterpiece. Maybe this isn't the ideal first Patrick White novel to read (judging by some other reviews !) and even though it is the second book he wrote, I would say you would appreciate the full power of this book having read "Voss" "The Tree of Man" or "Riders in the Chariot" before "The Living and the Dead"
Probably the bleakest novel since "Jude the Obscure" but none the less a great. Dazzling
Insightful but bleak and uneventful 7 April 2014
By Steven Davis - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Set in London in the 1930s, The Living and the Dead is the story of Catherine Standish and her two adult children, Elyot and Eden. They are three individuals living behind emotional barriers, seldom able to empathize or give themselves fully to love. There are also class barriers involved, as each increasingly finds her or his upper class status more of a burden than a privilege. Each eventually comes to question the purpose of life, seeking answers--or escape--in different directions.

The novel focuses not on events, but on feelings. White writes from deep inside the psyche of each of his characters in insightful, analytic prose. This is a thoughtful, but slow-paced novel, and the author's turgid style does not make it easy to read. The absence of quotation marks is only occasionally confusing, but White's frequent use of second person (suddenly it is "You took the train..." instead of Elyot or Eden) just calls attention to how the author is writing, not what he is saying. The characters are well-crafted, and there are beautifully-written passages throughout the book, but I found this bleak, uneventful and difficult novel on the whole unrewarding.
Five Stars 17 Jun. 2015
By katrina farris - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is such a good read
7 of 36 people found the following review helpful
What was this author thinking!?! 23 Dec. 1998
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
Quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. The characters are annoying and bland and the writing itself is superfluous and confusing. I felt that I had to force myself to finish it and then was angry that I didnt put it down halfway through. This book has nothing to say and is annoyingly terrible.
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