Happy Valley, Patrick White’s brooding, dystopic portrayal of small-town life in the high country of New South Wales, builds to a crisis: a shocking spousal homicide. A bored woman, saddled with a dull, sickly mate, takes up with a virile overseer and she pays a fearful price for her infidelity when her husband explodes in rage. The future Nobel Prize–winning author drew on his experience working as a jackaroo in the region to evoke the setting and characters of his first novel. But the plot twist was true to life, then as now, when intimacy and violence, desire and despair, intertwine.
White’s novel was published in 1939, and won several prizes. His misgivings over his stylistic debt to earlier modernist masters and his fear that he might be sued by the Chinese locals of Adaminaby, whom he barely disguised as characters, led him to suppress the work’s further publication. Like the town itself, gulped into the modernist maw of the Snowy Hydro Scheme, Happy Valley disappeared. However, it resurfaced in 2012, republished a century after White’s birth.
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