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Riders In The Chariot (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 5 Sep 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (5 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099323915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099323914
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"[A] monumental work [of more than] half a thousand pages -- almost every one of which cries out for quotation" (New York Times)

"Riders in the Chariot is the most compassionate and the most beautiful of all Patrick White’s works; colours fly everywhere; his words, comic, ecstatic, are like the brushstrokes on a canvas" (Carmen Callil and Colm Tóibín The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950)

"This is a book which really defies review; for its analysable qualities are overwhelmed by those imponderables which make a work 'great' in the untouchable sense. It must be read because, like Everest, 'it is there'." (Guardian)

"The outstanding figure in Australian fiction" (New York Times)

"Stands out among contemporary novelists like a cathedral surrounded by booths. Its forms, its impulse and its dedication to what is eternal all excite a comparison with religious architecture" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

A bold, visionary story of four intertwining lives from the Nobel prizewinning novelist

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No words to do justice to the experience I had reading this novel. Having worked my way through THE TREE OF MAN and VOSS I thought I knew what to expect from RIDERS IN THE CHARIOT. How wrong I was. Never have I been so moved or inspired by a book.

This is an epic in every meaning of the word. Not just epic in its sweep within time and space, taking in WW2, Europe, Australia, the Holocaust etc, but epic in its emotion and spiritual vision. White pulls of what so few novelists even attempt, a compelling expression of the Mystic Vision. The imagery of the Chariot (or Merkavah, to use its Hebrew name), which the four main characters share stands out like a cathedral in the book as the perfect metaphor for the Transcendent. If you are interested in mysticism, this is the book for you, as it is steeped in Judaic, Kabbalistic and Christian mystical imagery, but far from being airy-fairy or intangible, it is a concrete, as real, if not more real, than the meticulously detailed and fully realised material world of Australia and pre-War Germany White evokes. And if you are not interested in mysticism, this is the book for you too, as nowhere does any of this imagery work more powerfully than simply a symbol of the human spirit.

No book has ever spoken of the tension between the ecstatic vision and the numbing and brutal experience of being in a world which does not understand it so powerfully as this book did for me. Its characters are unforgettable, and although the vision of a world which is filled with darkness is powerfully vivid, White still finds space for immense compassion in his descriptions of it. Even his negative characters have flashes of insight and humanity. And his constant series of epiphanies in Nature unfailingly take the breath away.
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By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 10 Nov. 2002
Format: Paperback
This deceptively complex and tension-filled Australian novel begins as the straightforward story of Mary Hare, a strange, half-mad spinster who lives in Xanadu, a crumbling "pleasure dome," with the busybody Mrs. Jolley, a servant she fears. At various times in her meanderings, Mary meets a kind laundress named Mrs. Godbold, who lives in a shed with her nine children; Alf Dubbo, an often-drunk aborigine artist; and Mordecai Himmelfarb, a Jewish concentration camp survivor who has emigrated to Australia and now works in a machine shop.
In succeeding sections, in which these characters overlap, their intricate interior lives are developed in colorful, memorable detail, and the reader quickly sees that each is a lonely survivor of some traumatic experience which has made him/her question the nature of good and evil. Each hopes to unravel some of the mysteries at the center of the universe. Remarkably, all of them have experienced the same apocalyptic vision of a chariot being drawn by four horses galloping into a shimmering future.
In the hands of a lesser writer, the characters, their daily lives, and their vision of the chariot might have been presented in a sentimental or romantic way, or even been used to illustrate the author's religious views. But White's view of the chariot and its importance is far subtler--and more enigmatic--than that, and its role in the lives of these characters is both unsentimental and haunting. Tantalizing parallels between the vision of the chariot and the mysteries of Revelations, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the Seven Seals, along with Biblical warnings about blood, fire, and destruction will keep a symbol-hunter totally engaged.
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This is the great Australian novel: a vast, poetic epic which crosses continents but ultimately resides in Australia. White's characters are all illuminated by a vision of a chariot: a simple-headed heiress living in the ruins of her vast family home, a Jewish intellectual and Holocaust survivor doing manual labour in the local factory, an aboriginal artist and drunk, a wise but poor mother from the Norfolk broads. This is a book to be read slowly, savouring the briliance of White's sentences.
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Format: Paperback
I am always, always conflicted about Patrick White. I am pretty certain that he is one of the greatest writers ever to put pen to paper, however he's almost the definition of a "difficult" writer. Reading his books is like staring into a huge cloud of ever-switching hues. Reading him, and particularly this and his larger works, I feel like I am clawing at the base of a monolith to try and bring it down. Whether you enjoy reading him or not will therefore be contingent on whether you like that type of reading experience!

You feel like you are in the undisputed presence of greatness, a quality so vast that it's almost unknowable. His books are rich, dense, brilliantly written, epic yet also sometimes focusing on the tiniest of human experiences. I feel edified to read them, but I don't always entirely get them. I am certain that several of its qualities have passed me by. Which is testament to how many qualities they actually have! I however like that type of experience: I feel challenged, somewhat puzzled, as if i've experienced something significant that I won't understand until some point in the future. If you don't enjoy that type of experience, then Patrick White is possibly not for you - if you do however then you are in for the ride of your life!
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