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

Riders in the Chariot

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  673 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Patrick White's brilliant 1961 novel, set in an Australian suburb, intertwines four deeply different lives. An Aborigine artist, a Holocaust survivor, a beatific washerwoman, and a childlike heiress are each blessed—and stricken—with visionary experiences that may or may not allow them to transcend the machinations of their fellow men. Tender and lacerating, pure and profa ...more
Paperback, 643 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by NYRB Classics (first published 1961)
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 Riders in the Chariot, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Riders in the Chariot

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  673 ratings  ·  72 reviews

Sort order
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those in pursuit of distinctive voices
Recommended to Dolors by: Professor Al Filreis
Shelves: read-in-2014
“Who are the riders in the Chariot, eh, Mary?” (14) asked Miss Hare’s father when she was still fresh and innocent and uncorrupted by years of forced isolation.
Mary Hare is now an eccentric spinster who lives in the wilderness her long gone parents’ decaying estate has become. Considered socially inept, she seeks refuge in the natural world where her sharp solitude can be soothed by bizarre visions of a riderless golden chariot.

“There is the Throne of God, for instance. That is obvious enough-
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The world is a great sum of the infinitesimally small human beings and the majority of the little souls remain unnoticed and unobserved.
But in the eye of the beholder the world often turns into a thing quite different from what it may seem.
When Himmelfarb was able once more to raise his head, he realized that, for the second time in his life, he had fainted, or God had removed him, mercifully, from his body. Now it was evening, and a strange one. Those objects which had appeared most solid befor
Roger Brunyate
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fergus
The Visionaries

What makes a great novel? Many things, but among them I would certainly list Scale, Characters, and Moral Vision. All three of these qualities are to be found in this towering novel by Patrick White. It is the first book by the Nobel laureate that I have encountered; it will not be the last.

This is a long book (640 pages), but a very easy one to read. In any case, when speaking of scale, physical length is less important than breadth of implication. White concentrates on a small g
Eddie Watkins
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
The more I read the more Patrick White seemed like an inspired eccentric rather than a Nobel Laureate. I prefer inspired eccentrics to Nobel Laureates, but then Patrick White proves that one can be both.

This is a book about the burdens and dangers of being a visionary; the Chariot of the title coming from Ezekiel and representing a palpable vision of a higher order of reality. The four main characters have all had their own particular visions of the Chariot, the four roughly representing four di
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Don't die without reading.

In order to tempt readers into Riders in the Chariot, I can think of no better strategy than simply sampling White's prose:

p34 ...the travesty of experience.

p34... they had been taught firmly to suppress, like wind in company, the rise of unreason in their minds.

p40 Reason finally holds a gun at its head - and does not always miss.

p89 Miss Hare continued, "I still have to discover. Perhaps somebody will tell me. And show me at the same time how to distinguish with cer
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: samizdat
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 c
Apr 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Think, first, David Mitchell's interconnectivity, how we link: person to person, era to era, war to war, genre to genre. Transmigrating spirits.

Miss Hare is an only child, born to some money, in Australia. She is, let's just say, a disappointment. Not pretty; not pretty at all. And something wrong with her, too. She likes the woods, and the creatures there. She prefers it there. There it is where she meets Himmelfarb, the Jew, who has survived Auschwitz, and made it down under. He is no safer th
Justin Evans
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
White is fascinating: he has precisely two tools in his kit, and when they're working, I couldn't care less about his failure to, you know, structure his books or think through his incredibly vague ideas. When the two tools aren't working, I can't stomach more than about 15 pages at a time.

Luckily, in 'Riders', White is at or near peak. As seasoned readers will know, White can't focus on more than two people at a time, which means that almost every scene/chapter/section/book he's ever written i
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Patrick White is an Australian writer who should be better known, and more widely read. Riders in the Chariot is probably my favorite novel of his, a moving and beautifully written testimony to the yearning for redemption so inherent even in these, the days of the ascension of science and rationalism.

The novel takes place in White's fictional Australian city of Sarsaparilla, a locale wherein the rising tide of recent immigrants intermingle with an ofttimes suspicious and bigoted populace. Four r
Diane Barnes
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Let me just say, right up front, this book is difficult. Hard to wade through the prose, hard to understand when you do (what just happened?) hard to accept the small cruelties of everyday life and fate and bad decisions. I think this book may be better as I mull it over than it was while reading.

We follow 4 characters as they interact with each other, and get their personal biographies as well. Mary, the ugly, simple-minded, unwanted daughter of eccentric parents. Himmelfarb, the Jew who emigra
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 al
Wow, I feel parallaxed.
Some books I dread finishing for two reasons. First, obviously I don't want it to end, and second, with a rare book like this, when it comes to getting down some thoughts, the task overwhelms with a sense of paralysis.
Riders in the Chariot is an experience similar to revisiting that high back in my youth in discovering another level I never knew existed, like discovering Hermann Hesse and Alan Watts.
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A searing novel. The story-telling gifts of Patrick White are truly out of this world. I remember reading Voss decades ago. A humbling experience. I had to bushwhack my way through the first hundred pages. Then the recalcitrant narrative allowed me into a clearing and nudged me on until it was too late and, spellbound, I could not tear myself away from the protagonist's final dissolution. Riders vibrates with similar themes and sensations. Here again, we see the world through the eyes of 'chosen ...more
Apr 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: knee-strokers
Shelves: own, nyrb, fiction

This is probably a masterpiece. Certainly it's 643 pages of almost nonstop virtuosity, thickly-laid words bound together in sentences, a highly idiosyncratic style sui generis to White.

She snorted, and began to suck the hot, rubbery lumps of her exasperated lips.

This is the story of four good, guileless individuals living in a postwar Sydney, Australia suburb - Miss Hare, a muddled, virginal old woman living in her parents' decaying mansion; Himmelfarb, a Holocaust survivor and former scholar, n
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
What to say about this epic visionary masterpiece? So heartfelt, original, challenging, it really is a heroic work that daemands heroism from the reader too as with most great books. It takes you to the edges of human perception, and although christian in much of its symbolism, its message is universal: that goodness in human society is either shunned or ignored and that evil manifests itself in those who consider themselves among the righteous.
Kevin Tole
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, australiana
A stunningly brilliant book. Patrick White proves time and time that he deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature. This is a study of four people that share a common vision of the riders in the chariot, a quote from the book of the prophet Ezekiel; Miss Hare, the aged maiden lady and sole possessor of the old house and estate of Xanadu; Mordechai Himmelfarb , a Jew who has passed through Europe and the holocaust to end his days in Australia; Alf Dubbo the aborigine painter who sees and paints in v ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I came into this book without prior knowledge or expectations (all I knew is that the author was a Nobel Prize for Literature winner and Australian). It was refreshing in some ways to read a book without having anticipated it or having to resist the temptation to fit it into any preconceived notions of how you expect it/want it to be. I always love well-crafted multi-narrator tales where the narrators and characters all relate and intersect in surprising and interesting ways (like Zadie Smith's ...more
Peter Slater
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Patrick White's characters are the poor, the outcasts, the refugees, those who live on the margins of society, and in them he discovers the central truths of what it means to be human.
This has become one of my favourite books. Each time I read it I discover something new. Patrick White has an uncanny ability to capture deep, spiritual meanings in the most unlikely places. He finds the sacred in the derelict, and joy amongst the ruins.And he conveys what one senses to be the essence of character
Daniel Polansky
In a small Australian town, four holy fools; the Lamed Wufnik of legend, righteous souls who secretly uphold the universe; do spiritual combat with the terrible darkness of modernity and human indifference.

I want to trumpet this book to the heavens; I want to drop copies of it on strangers (though I will not, because it’s very large). Aesthetically it is a masterpiece. White has that rarest of gift of making each sentence seem like a sentence no had ever written before, and yet the narrative re
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's taken me a while to get to reading Patrick White - and so worth the wait. This book is filled with the most poignant and inspiring writing. White's use of language constantly brings me gems of surprise ... inspired by fine experience of and engagement in the world and the senses.
Es un mosaico de una localidad australiana, Sarsaparrilla, y de como se cruzan las vidas de cuatro personas de orígenes muy distintos: Miss Hare una anciana solterona aristocrática venida a menos, Mordecai Himmelfarb un viejo profesor alemán judío que sobrevivió a los campos de concentración nazis que llegó a Australia para trabajar como obrero, Mrs. Godbold una pobre lavandera que vive con varios de sus hijos en una casucha, y Alf Dubbo, un indígena australiano ya viejo que se gana la vida como ...more
Scott Cox
Australian author Patrick White won the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature. The book's title comes from the drunken utterances of Mary's father during a very disturbing scene at the beginning of the novel, "Who are the riders in the Chariot, eh, Mary? Who is ever going to know?" The remainder of this wonderfully complex and symbolic story intertwines the lives of four colorful characters: an insane heiress, a washerwoman, a Jewish refugee and a mixed-caste aborigine. Patrick White's over-arching th ...more
Dec 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
How does one even begin to explain a book like this?

Some books you simply read, analyze, and can discuss effortlessly. This book is nothing like that. It's organic, the characters, their stories, their lives-it's all alive. Patrick White exhibits human nature in it's realist forms, his writing is raw, honest, and extremely original.

This is a book that requires patience, tolerance, and a open mind, there's a lot of unnecessary dialogue and sometimes I found myself reading aimlessly--however there
Last year I gave up on 2 books: Thackeray's impenetrable Vanity Fair and Edith Wharton's surprisingly (to me) indifferent Age of Innocence. I was hoping, I'm still hoping, that this year I would keep my unfinished reads to a minimum. As it is, Riders in the Chariot, by Nobel Prize winner Patrick White is the first. I sincerely hope it will also be last but we'll see. It's not as impenetrable as Vanity Fair, and much more interesting than Age of Innocence, but it is still hard work. There's some ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-non-sf
White writes poetry obscured as prose. One forgets how beautiful language can be until someone like White crafts so beautiful a book as Riders... Not my favorite. Nothing will displace The Vivisector, but the rich dense detail of Riders has an empathy for its characters that was missing in White's portrait of the artist. Reading Riders yanked me away from the second-rate fiction, too much of it bad science fiction, to which I had chained myself. I was liberated and able to read again.
Feb 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
Equal parts annoying, depressing and upsetting. When I read books like this, I really want to know more about the author. I mean, what happened to him?! To be fair, Patrick White has written other books that have been enjoyed by people I respect. So while it is possible I might like something else he has written, I'm gun shy now and I have a long list of books I really want to read.

On a positive note, I love the cover art. I have seen the original in the Musee D'Orsay and it is a lovely painting
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Patrick White's sense of language is sublime, and his understanding of the human condition is sympathetic, deep and unyielding in its clarity. To ride in the chariot suggests a capacity to reach a spiritual plane beyond that on which we, conventionally tethered to the earth, can aspire. I was moved time and again by the travails of White's riders. They endured through his witness, through his art. Read this and be devastated, but with a deeper kinship to humanity.
David Standing
Apr 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Outsiderdom was something Patrick White understood closely having been a sickly young boy denied the company of other children, followed by a few miserable years as an Australian in a British boarding school. After the war he set up home with his gay lifelong partner in suburban Sydney, many moons before the mardi gras era.

In “Riders in the Chariot” Patrick White places the outsider on center stage. The four outsiders whose fates are destined to intertwine are privy to religious revelation; all
Alan Wightman
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: J. Jagger
Four disparate characters, unknown or little known to each other, live or come to live, in a village near Sydney in the years following World War 2. They have in common that they see the world much different to "normal" people, and have shared a biblical vision of a chariot. Other people mostly treat them as outcasts, a position they come to accept, only near the end finding grains of comfort in each other.

White's prose is elegant, thoughtful and attractive - a few examples follow:

"Religion, lik
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it
I gave this book 3 stars for originality and unusual subjects. Some of it was brilliant but other parts were trying too hard to be brilliant. It was overworked in places and that's when it fell down for me. The characters were interesting and kept you wanting to know more about them. But they were not convincing as flesh and blood people but rather contrivances to convey the same messages over and over again. I think the book revealed more about the author than anything else. His feeling of desp ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Grand Days
  • Fortunes of Richard Mahony
  • My Brother Jack
  • Carpentaria
  • For Love Alone
  • The Shiralee
  • The Fox in the Attic (The Human Predicament, #1)
  • To the Islands
  • That Deadman Dance
  • Come in Spinner
  • Power Without Glory
  • The Tyranny Of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History
  • The Life
  • Drylands
  • The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
  • Capricornia
  • Mr. Fortune's Maggot; and, The Salutation
  • 1788
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 non-fiction. His fiction freely employs shifting narrative vantages and the stream of consciousness technique. In 1973, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literat ...more
“Reason finally holds a gun at its head - and does not always miss.” 6 likes
More quotes…