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Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White
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Riders in the Chariot (1961)

by Patrick White

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5171229,684 (4.09)2 / 59

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Her instinct suggested, rather, that she was being dispersed, but that in so experiencing, she was entering the final ecstasy. Walking and walking through the unresistant thorns and twigs. Ploughing through the soft opalescent remnants of night. Never actually arriving, but that was to be expected, since she had become all-pervasive: scent sound, the steely dew, the blue glare of white light off rocks. She was all but identified.

Riders in the Chariot wrestles throughout its sprawling 640 page course with this notion of Ascension. The core quartet of characters struggle and persevere. Their motivations and responses are hardly ideal. The craven and the petty are a common currency here. Colonial traditions wither, crack and collapse. A modern mediocrity arrives at the end of the war, along with streams of refugees and migrants. Names are nativised, genealogies whitened, decisions to emigrate are regretted and allowed to petrify in the bleak sun of the Outback.

It does force one to contemplate the nature of the Elect.

I found a number of analogies with Faulkner here. The opening scenes harken to [b:The Sound and the Fury|10975|The Sound and the Fury|William Faulkner|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1350949394s/10975.jpg|1168289] and later details conjure [b:Absalom, Absalom!|373755|Absalom, Absalom!|William Faulkner|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347686293s/373755.jpg|1595511]. Whereas the original sin of Faulkner's South was slavery, a misdeed which poisoned the history, the land and the souls of Southerners, Patrick White isn't that specific, but finds the hollow idols of postwar Australia to be sufficiently damning. Many of the accursed are slain in atonement. Those that survivie maintain faith but little hope.
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I missed quite a bit of meaning when reading this book: my almost total ignorance of Jewish culture and sketchy memory of the Gospel. However I felt a surprising level of understanding for Miss Hare in Xanadu. I am also certain that Mrs Jolley is what Hyacinth Bucket would have become in the "darkest timeline" - if "Keeping Up Appearances" had done a alternate timeline episode, like Community season 3's "Remedial Chaos Theory".
  seabear | Mar 19, 2017 |
If anybody ever asked Patrick White about Riders in the Chariot as he was working on it, I imagine his response: he would have rolled his great patrician eyebrows and said, ‘I am going to make these pseudo-egalitarian Australians know about their underclass, and I am going to make them care about them’.

Because although Riders in the Chariot is a masterly exploration of faith in all its forms, rich in symbolism, powerful in its themes and written in Patrick White’s trademark piercing style, it also has four of the most engaging characters in modern literature, and I defy anyone to read to the end and not feel bereaved by it.

BEWARE SPOILERS (not many, but some are essential for what follows).

The book begins with Miss Hare, a tragi-comic figure of fun in the fictional town of Sarsparilla. Heiress to a bizarre crumbling mansion called Xanadu, she is an eccentric in a society that values conformity. Too plain and too odd to have been married off by her equally odd parents she has lived on alone in Xanadu until finally she takes on a housekeeper called Mrs Jolley. Mrs Jolley specialises in working for elderly spinsters in need of a friend to whom a fortune might be bequeathed, but she is taken aback by Xanadu with its fallen masonry, mould covered interiors and invading plant life. Xanadu reminded me of Angkor Wat with its trees inextricably entwined through the walls, and of the gothic ruin in Karen Foxlee’s The Midnight Dress.

But simple as she is, Miss Hare has a rich spiritual connection with the earth, the plants and small creatures of her estate.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2014/05/04/riders-in-the-chariot-by-patrick-white/ ( )
1 vote anzlitlovers | Oct 5, 2016 |
When the supposedly mentally retarded guy in this book starts to paint, the book suddenly becomes one of the best books I have EVER read (out of the circa 1,800 or so I've read so far). ( )
1 vote dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This was a big read.., a bit daunting when I first picked it up, but after the first 100 pages I was hooked and couldn't put it down until I reached page 552(the end). What a writer he is, his characters are never ordinary but are always so interesting. The four " riders in the chariot" were all people who had not been given much in life but nevertheless each was following his own god to find redemption. They are all "survivors" in Patrick White's mythical town of Sarsparilla and all suffered from being "different". I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is well worth the effort. ( )
1 vote lesleynicol | Nov 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick Whiteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Malouf, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014002185X, Paperback)

Through the crumbling ruins of the once splendid Xanadu Miss Hare wanders, half-mad, yet seeming less alien among the encroaching wildlife than among the inhabitants of Saraparilla. In the wilderness she stumbles firstly upon a half-caste aborigine and then a Jewish refugee. They each place themselves in the care of a local washerwoman. Existing in a world of pervasive evil, all four have been independently damaged and discarded. Now in one shared vision they find themselves bound together, understanding the possibility of redemption.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:44 -0400)

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Fiction; life of Aboriginal artist entwines with three other people.

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