The Hanging Garden

hanginggardenThe Hanging Garden
by Patrick White
2012- posthumously / 228 pages
rating 8.5 / 20th cent fiction

This is an unfinished novel by Australia’s Nobel Prize winner. I read and loved Voss but White’s other books seem to be more difficult to get ahold of in the States.

Gilbert Horsfell and Irene Sklavos are children who have been left by their respective parents, English and Greek, with Mrs Essie Bulpit in Australia until the war is over. Gilbert’s mother is dead as is Irene’s father. Irene aunt is Mrs Lockhart who takes on some parental duties. Irene’s mother has returned to England as has Gilbert’s father.

Needless to say, the two abandoned children become friends and allies. They go to school and endure the trials of being outsiders, foreigners, even colored due to Irene’s Greek background. Gilbert builds a house in the backyard, near a “hanging garden” and that space becomes their refuge.

This book has an experimental feel to it. The voices frequently change from 3rd person to 1st and even to 2nd, and in different ways, too, including a brilliant stream of consciousness. White also adds memory in the middle of action. It mostly works. It’s flat gorgeous in places, only a tad confusing in others.

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