Patrick White’s magnificent debut – first published 1939, this mesmerising first novel gives us a prolonged glimpse of literary genius in the making.
Based on Patrick White’s own experiences in the early 1930s as a jackaroo at Bolaro, near Adaminaby in south-eastern New South Wales, Happy Valley paints a portrait of a community in a desolate landscape. It is a jagged and restless study of small-town and country life.
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.
Happy Valley is Patrick White’s first novel, published in London in 1939 when White was 27. 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.