Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 16, 2009

Opening Lines: Voss by Patrick White (1957)

Voss, by Patrick White won the inaugural Miles Franklin Award in 1957.  These are the opening lines…

‘There is a man here, miss, asking for your uncle,’ said Rose.

And stood breathing.

‘What man?’ asked the young woman, who was engaged upon some embroidery of a difficult nature, at which she was now forced to look more closely, holding the little frame to the light. ‘Or is it perhaps a gentleman?’

‘I do not know,’ said the servant. ‘It is a kind of foreign man.’

Vintage Classics, 1994, p7


  1. Have you read, Voss, Lisa? These opening lines are intriguing… I need to read more White. I have a “Fringe of Leaves” in my TBR. Maybe I should dust it off…


  2. Have I read Voss? *chuckle*
    Set aside a week or two to read the longest post I’ve ever written! See
    I loved Fringe of Leaves, it’s a good tale, but it also raises some very interesting issues. The characterisation of the older women at the beginning is a hoot!
    I might get round to blogging that too, using the entry in my reading journal….


  3. Ahhh, I should have checked first before asking! Thanks for the link.


  4. ‘What man?’ asked the young woman…‘Or is it perhaps a gentleman?’

    ‘I do not know,’ said the servant. ‘It is a kind of foreign man

    The young woman ultimately finds out, and I too have a vested interest in the answer. My ancestors emigrated from Prussia in the mid 1840’s for reasons passionately spiritual. My grandparents still spoke German at home.

    Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt emigrated from Prussia in 1841. Of a delicate physique and very short sighted, this ‘foreign man’ tended to sway between euphoria and fits of depression. In 1846-1847 he attempted to traverse Australia from east to west, heading for Perth. From this expedition Leichhardt did not return, leaving behind a legacy of rock art:


    • It’s a clever play on the word foreign, Gladys. I hadn’t noticed the dual meaning till now.


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