Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Voss” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,610 ratings  ·  237 reviews

Set in nineteenth-century Australia, Voss is the story of the secret passion between an explorer and a naïve young woman. Although they have met only on a few occasions, Voss and Laura are joined by overwhelming, obsessive feelings for each other. Voss sets out to cross the continent, and as hardships, mutiny and betrayal whittle aw
Paperback, 448 pages
Published July 21st 1994 by Vintage Classics (first published August 10th 1957)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Voss, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Voss

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,610 ratings  ·  237 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Voss
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, australia
“There were occasions, this fever-gutted man suspected, when his leader was not sensible of their common doom, and so, he must see for him, he must feel for him. By now he was able to read the faintest tremor of blood or earth, the recording of which was perhaps his sole surviving reason for existence.” (p. 280)

This is a novel of astonishing vision and talent. An adventure story and a love story, the writing is vivid and lush. Its characterizations have an emotional resonance that does not flag.
Vit Babenco
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Voss is a splendidly dark and uncompromisingly realistic novel. The story is a conflict of the ideal and the actual…
They realized, standing on the wharf, that the orderly, grey, past life was of no significance. They had reached that point at which they would be offered up, in varying degrees, to chaos or to heroism. So they were shaking with their discovery, beside the water, as the crude, presumptuous town stretched out behind them, was reeling on its man-made foundations in the sour earth. No
Steven Godin
Patrick White's 1957 novel I found to be an immensely challenging read, not what I was expecting, and I am still unclear whether my scoring is accurate, going by my first thoughts on completion, I think it's just about right, thinking a little deeper over the coming days it may well change. The story itself was certainly a case of substance over style, which as it turned out, was one of it's big strengths, and White's sentencing had a purposeful way of switching between brisk flashes of brillian ...more

Maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen

I couldn't think of a better placeholder, until I find words for a proper review. It's been an exhausting month in the desert with Voss.

“It is like using an iron crowbar at minus 65 degrees centigrade in Siberia: when you let go, part of the skin adheres to it. P
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
While pondering on whether to read another Patrick White, I check my rating of "Voss", which I remember dimly as an excruciatingly slow ride through 19th century Australia with a man I couldn't stand at all until the very end of the story.

Even though I felt that it was a struggle to get to the end of that (reading) journey, it left an impression on me that lingered: that Patrick White's fiction is worth grappling with, that the effort the reader has to put in is mirrored in the effort of the c
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Apparently White listened repeatedly to Alban Berg's violin concerto while composing Voss. I was made aware of this about half way through. I lazily experimented but found myself engulfed in the novel's emotional torrents. Maybe my ears popped, but I wasn't aware of the music.

Voss is a story of volition. It is sun-baked and agonizing. Quickly thereafter I bought a half dozen of White's other works but Voss remains the only one I've finished.

Not to elaborate but Voss is about curiosity and will.
In the end I actually began to despise this book. Overwrought and pretentious in my opinion. A simple story based on an explorer disappearing in outback Australia during colonial times I never felt that the simplicity of the story was saved by the writing. Challenging prose is fine by me but this went beyond a challenge.

I almost feel that I read this book two and a half times as I read and reread passage after passage to try and get the nuances that were obviously completely above my tiny littl
Roger Brunyate
Into the Wilderness

The book opens with the delicacy of a Jane Austen. A young woman, alone in a Sydney drawing-room on a quiet Sunday morning around 1845, reluctantly receives a visitor from abroad. "That strange, foreign men should come on a Sunday when she herself had ventured on a headache was quite exasperating." The headache on which Laura Trevelyan, the heroine, has so deliciously ventured is a cover for her recent loss of faith in conventional Christianity, yet the vast novel that follow
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
'I detest humility,' he said. 'Is man so ignoble that he must lie in the dust, like worms? If this is repentance, sin is less ugly.'

Patrick White is Australia's only Nobel prize laureate (if we haven't co-opted Coetzee yet). If you haven't heard of him, don't worry, it's only you and everyone else. He also was the first winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 1957, but people mainly focus on the Nobel prize winning for some reason.

Voss, his most famous work, is as prickly and difficult
This book is based upon the life of the nineteenth-century Prussian explorer and naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt who disappeared whilst on an expedition into the Australian outback.

A magnificent and unforgettable book to be read by all fans of Australian fiction.
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Very interesting story. It is about crossing the then unexplored center of the vast Australian continent. Look at the globe. Australia is a big piece of land in the lower part of the Southern hemisphere. According to Wiki, a big part of that piece of land are desserts and one of the first land explorer who attempted to cross it from coast-to-coast, was a Prussian explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt (1814-1848), who disappered in the Australian outback while doing his 3rd land exploration.

In this 1957 b
Justin Evans
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
File under: novels whose eponymous character is not the most interesting character in the book. Right alongside 'Anna Karenina,' 'Lila,' 'Moby Dick,' and the central book in this tradition, 'Frankenstein.'

Anyway, this Patrick White novel, you will be surprised to learn, is about the internal states of a small number of characters, the heroes among whom don't fit in, the villains among whom fit in very well. The heroes are mystics and idealists, gazing longingly through this (natural) world at t
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wow, this was a surprising discovery! At first it seemed to be a classic adventure story about a sturdy German, named Voss, who was the first ever to make the passage through Australia, from east to west, around 1840. This story is mixed with the platonic lovestory between this Voss-character and the headstrong lady Laura. But the book offers much more than this: it is a derisive portrait of society in Sydney (in the manner of Jane Austen), an accumulation of wisdom on life, death and love (in t ...more
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'd avoided the books of Patrick White up till now because I'd heard he was difficult. With this year being the Centennary of his birth and a lot of arts programs being devoted to this, I decided to see what the fuss was all about. Now I'm only sorry I didn't pick him up earlier. From the very first page of this book, I was totally engaged. Inspired by the story of explorer Ludwig Leichardt who died in the Australian desert in 1849, it's a powerful narrative told in some of the most beautiful an ...more
Lately I’ve been searching for really outstanding books set in Australia to read, and that search led me to Australia’s first, and so far only, Nobel Prize winner, Patrick White and his extraordinary novel, Voss. Voss is the fictionalized account of the life of German explorer Ludwig Leichardt and his 1848 trek into the heart of the Australian desert where only aboriginal tribesmen dared to roam, and his subsequent disappearance. Much has been made of White’s fictionalization of the life of a re ...more
Now why doesn't it surprise me that not one of my well read high brow friends, Australian or otherwise, has read this Nobel Prize winner?

Let alone reviewed it....

I'd do it myself, but why bother when Fred Dagg has this to say about writing The Great Australian Novel. Australians, if you haven't heard this, it's hilarious. For others, it is still very funny (he is great on Tolstoy), but there will be the odd reference you don't get.
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of words
Recommended to Christine by: Paul "the man" Stern
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Murphy
Jun 19, 2009 rated it liked it
This is the first Patrick White novel I've read. I was prepared for central characters larger than life and perceived as mythic, as is Voss himself and his parallel, Laura Trevelyan. I wasn't surprised by a sense of divinity, of a journey into a kind of hell. What's impressive is the way White uses language, how he controls impressions and the emphasis of his narrative with so few words. It's the same way a poet isolates a single word on a line or uses a space to point to meaning. So White can g ...more
Set in Australia in the 1800's and tells the story of Voss an explorer and his deep connection to the younger Laura Trevalyn whose Uncle Bonner finances the expedition that Voss leads.

A difficult novel to rate and review. Initially found it slow to get into and find a reading rhythm but it did grab attention with patience. The ill fated expedition and the dynamics between the men who followed Voss made gripping reading. The conditions that they encountered intense and visual.

Well worth a look a
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to El by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (210/1001)
Exploration stories are love.

Primarily taking place in 1845, Johann Ulrich Voss, a German explorer, introduces the reader to the Australian outback by setting out across the continent. The story begins with Voss meeting Laura Trevalyan, a young orphaned woman who is new to the colony. Her uncle is funding Voss's expedition.

The story progresses into the outback and is almost the entirety of the book. Voss's expedition travels through both the dry and the wet lands, meeting adversity at every step
Set in 19th century Australia, Voss charts the journey of a German naturalist, Johann Ulrich Voss, keen to explore inland Australia. It is largely based on the exploits of Ludwig Leichhardt, a legendary Prussian explorer, who disappeared in 1848 while midway through an ambitious expedition to cross the continent from east to west. To this day, no one quite knows what happened to him.

Voss not only tells the story of that fateful expedition, it also tells the (fictional) story of the woman he left
Apr 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
SPOILER ALERT! A bunch of people go on a desert expedition and die. There! You've read the book more-or-less. ...more
To summarise: this is a beautifully written, evocative novel, with lots of philosophical and theological exploration. And maybe, if it wasn't for my huge aversion to the existential-angst-in-the-wilderness genre, I might have actually enjoyed it. But then there is the fact that I kinda found it, well, - I want to say 'wrong', but you can't really accuse great literature of being wrong, so we'll go with 'presents a view of the world that I don't share', or alternatively, "OMG enuff about the suff ...more
John Anthony
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read, fiction
I had a very turbulent relationship with this book which alternated between the ridiculous and the sublime.

Set in mid 19th century Australia, Voss is the German leader of an expeditionary force.A powerful psychological narrative, it reminded me at times of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Golding's Lord of the Flies.Voss is an outsider who is patronised by the colonial gentry. The book centres upon 2 outsiders: Voss and the niece of his major patron and their relationship.

I found the portrayal of
Chris Gager
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't started this yet, but I pulled it off my shelves while looking for a book, any book, by Nathaniel West that I might have rescued over the recent years. No luck there, but this book was mentioned favorably by William Finnegan in "Barbarian Days" so I've got it on the to-read-soon shelf now.

I'm back at this one after setting it aside for other things a while back. I have to say that it's possible I may put this down due to discomfort with the author's prose style. It seems very 1950's se
Jan 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: australia
I have feelings about this book all across the spectrum from bad to great!
The first couple of chapters are difficult stylistically but this eases with perserverence. On the whole I am really glad I read this book, I loved the story line, the characters, the auor's use of language. It is a complex book, which thoroughly warrants a second close read if I was someone who did second reads. The story has two strands - on one side the author's deft comic rendering of polite Sidney society in colonial
This was a strange book. I have seldom experienced so many ups and downs within a book.

In 1845 Johann Ulrich Voss, a German, sets out to explore the Australian outback as the first white man ever. Before that he meets the orphaned Laura Trevelyan, niece of a wealthy merchant and sponsor of Voss' expedition. Although Voss and Laura only meet twice face to face, a strange form of love story evolved between the two during the expedition.

I don't want to tell more of the plot to not spoil the excitem
Feb 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Set in 1840's Australia. Voss is an intense German explorer being sponsored by Laura Trevelyan's uncle. Laura is the thoughtful, self-sufficient introvert orphan niece in a bustling socially ambitious family. Voss, a straggly, awkward figure dressed stiffly in black would be "ludicrous, if not for his arrogance" and does his best to ignore others. While Voss is preparing to set out into the bush he has a handful of encounters with Laura which reflect animosity, awkwardness and recognition. Their ...more
Stephen Durrant
This novel has moments of mythic power, and White writes with originality and strength: "There comes a moment when an individual who is too honest to take refuge in the old illusion of self-importance is suspended agonizingly between the flat sky and the flat earth, and prayer is no more than a slight gumminess on the roof of the mouth" (p. 325). Themes of self-importance AND humility resonate throughout this story of a mysterious German, Voss, who leads a group of explorers and ne'er-do-wells o ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Voss by Patrick White 2 10 Jun 23, 2019 06:48PM  
All About Books: Week 77 - Voss by Patrick White 7 37 Mar 26, 2015 08:07PM  
Australian literature 4 24 Jun 12, 2014 05:25AM  
Austrailian Literature 1 23 Mar 25, 2008 06:09PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • My Brother Jack
  • An Imaginary Life
  • The Harp in the South
  • Eucalyptus
  • The Hunter
  • Oscar and Lucinda
  • Remembering Babylon
  • The Electrical Experience: A Discontinuous Narrative
  • Seven Poor Men of Sydney
  • The History of Mr. Polly
  • Fathoms: The World in the Whale
  • How It Is
  • The Man Without Qualities
  • A Short History of the World According to Sheep
  • True History of the Kelly Gang
  • My Brilliant Career
  • Dirt Music
  • The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction
See similar books…
Patrick Victor Martindale White was an Australian author widely regarded as one of the major English-language novelists of the 20th century. From 1935 until death, he published twelve novels, two short story collections, eight plays, and also non-fiction. His fiction freely employs shifting narrative vantages and the stream of consciousness technique. In 1973, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Li ...more

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
30 likes · 10 comments
“كانت في أسعد حالاتها وهي منغلقة الى ذاتها بأفكارها، وكان هذا قوام صلابتها” 87 likes
“من الواضح أن الصحاري تُفضل أن تُقاوم التاريخ وأن تُطور سطوره” 58 likes
More quotes…