The novel “Voss” by Patrick White focuses on two main characters, Voss, a German, and Laura, a young woman who has recently lost her parents and moved to the colony of New South Wales. The novel opens with their first meeting at the home of Laura’s uncle, who is also the patron of Voss’s expedition.
Voss embarks on an adventure to cross the Australian continent in 1845, accompanied by a group of settlers and two Aboriginal men. Throughout the journey, they face numerous challenges, including a drought-stricken desert and waterlogged lands. Despite these obstacles, Voss and Laura maintain a connection even as Voss is away on the expedition. The novel intersperses the developments in both of their lives, with Laura adopting an orphaned child and attending a ball while Voss is away.
The expedition party splits in two and many members eventually succumb to the harsh conditions. The story concludes 20 years later, at a garden party hosted by Laura’s cousin Belle Radclyffe, where a statue of Voss is being unveiled. At the party, Laura Trevelyan and the only surviving member of Voss’s expedition, Mr. Judd, are in attendance.
What sets this novel apart is not the physical description of the events, but rather the emotions, thoughts, and fate of the explorers. The novel highlights the complex character of Voss and delves deeply into his passion, perception, and eventual downfall.