on 15 April 2001
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 faces......in 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.