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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Eye of the Storm

Patrick White

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To purchase The Eye of the Storm

Title: The Eye of the Storm
Author: Patrick White
Genre: Novel
Written: 1973
Length: 589 pages
Availability: The Eye of the Storm - US
The Eye of the Storm - UK
The Eye of the Storm - Canada
The Eye of the Storm - India
L'Oeil du cyclone - France
Im Auge des Sturms - Deutschland
L'occhio dell'uragano - Italia
  • Published shortly after White won the Nobel Prize The Eye of the Storm sold very well, spending several months on the American bestseller lists.
  • The Eye of the Storm was made into a film in 2011, directed by Fred Schepisi, and starring Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush, and Judy Davis

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Our Assessment:

A : an almost perfectly written book -- but length and pace might make it too much for some readers.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Atlantic Monthly . 2/1973 Edward Weeks
The Economist . 10/11/1973 .
The Guardian . 6/9/1973 William Trevor
The New Statesman . 7/9/1973 William Walsh
Newsweek . 21/1/1974 .
The New Yorker . 4/3/1974 George Steiner
The NY Rev. of Books . 4/4/1974 Christopher Ricks
The NY Times Book Rev. A+ 6/1/1974 Shirley Hazzard
The Observer . 9/9/1973 .
Time . 14/1/1973 Martha Duffy
The Times C- 6/9/1973 Michael Ratcliffe
Times Literary Supp. . 21/9/1973 Tom Rosenthal

  From the Reviews:
  • "One seeks among debased superlatives for words that would convey the grandeur of The Eye of the Storm not in destitute slogans but in tribute to its high intellect, its fidelity to our victories and confusions, its beauty and heroic maturity." - Shirley Hazzard, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The Eye of the Storm is conscientious about characterization, to the point of repetition. But stylistically it is self-indulgent. (...) There is meticulous attention to scene setting, but action almost always happens offstage. Patrick White is king of his created world, but at the price of keeping it without spontaneity." - Martha Duffy, Time

  • "Patrick White's incandescent conviction has here paled into a kind of Prizewinner's Baroque. (...) I never believed in The Eye of the Storm for more than a few sentences at a time. The magic is fatally flawed by both slickness and indecision, and out of its light-fingered collapse there rises a Johnsonian world of the daft and the greedy, ruled by cruelty, stupidity, and hate." - Michael Ratcliffe, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The unpromising story of the novel is easily told: an ailing Australian matriarch is visited by her two children who long ago moved to Europe. The cast of characters is small, centered around the nurses attending to Elizabeth Hunter, her lawyer, and her son and daughter. Even from her sickbed Elizabeth Hunter exerts a strong influence over all of them. It is not the kind of story that appeals to us greatly. The fact that the son, Basil, is a knighted actor -- Sir Basil -- and the daughter married a French prince seems to add some promise to the clash of personalities -- though in fact we found these the only two unlikely and overdone inventions of the books: it would have sufficed for Basil to be a prominent actor, and Dorothy to have married nobility.

       Both the children are in some financial need, and this is part of the reason they return. They are weak and vulnerable characters, well-described by White. Indeed, all his characterizations are expertly done, and it is this and his command of his craft in general that makes The Eye of the Storm such a riveting read. This carefully drawn out novel is almost perfectly written. Each sentence -- each word -- seems correctly chosen. It is a large book, but almost laconic at times. The descriptions are often succinct, the dialogue realistic (short, often half-finished exchanges), and White is brutally honest in his assessment of his characters and their motives. The calm at the eye of the storm that the book encompasses is eerily well related. Patrick White won the Nobel Prize in the same year as he completed this novel, an appropriate confirmation that he was deserving of the award.

       The Eye of the Storm is an impressive read in every sense. In fact, it is literature, which we can rarely say about modern novels. We recommend it very highly indeed. That said, readers without staying power or with a modern attention span (i.e. none) are warned: there is tension throughout the book, but little straightforward action. It can be a slow read -- but we believe it to be well worth any and all effort.

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The Eye of the Storm: Reviews: The Eye of the Storm - the film: Patrick White: Other books by Patrick White under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Patrick White (1912-1990), Australian author. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. Schooled in England (at Cheltenham, and King's College, Cambridge). His first novel Happy Valley was published in 1939. Worked for R.A.F Intelligence during WWII, after which he returned to Australia.

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