Patrick White

Happy Valley
  • Happy Valley

  • Happy Valley is Patrick White’s first novel, published in London in 1939 when White was twenty-seven. It was praised by, among others, Graham Greene and Elizabeth Bowen, and won the Australian Literature Gold Medal in 1941, but, fearing that he had libelled one of the families portrayed in the novel, White did not allow the novel to be republished in English in his lifetime.

    Happy Valley is a place of dreams and secrets, of snow and ice and wind. In this remote little town, perched in its landscape of desolate beauty, everybody has a story to tell about loss and longing and loneliness, about their passion to escape. I must get away, thinks Dr Oliver Halliday, thinks Alys Browne, thinks Sidney Furlow. But Happy Valley is not a place that can be easily left, and White’s vivid characters, with their distinctive voices, move bit by bit towards sorrow and acceptance.

Patrick White was born in England in 1912 and taken to Australia, where his father owned a sheep farm, when he was six months old. He was educated in England at Cheltenham college and King's College, Cambridge. He settled in London, where he wrote several unpublished novels, then served in the RAF during the war. He returned to Australia after the war. He became the most considerable figure in modern Australian literature, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. The great poet of Australian landscape, he turned its vast empty spaces into great mythic landscapes of the soul. His position as a man of letters was controversial, provoked by his acerbic, unpredictable public statements and his belief that it is eccentric individuals who offer the only hope of salvation. He died in September 1990.