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Patrick White: The Eye of the Storm

This novel is about the last days of Elizabeth Hunter. White said that the idea for the novel came to me crossing Kensingston High Street, London, after a visit to my mother at her flat in Marloes Road where she was lying bedridden, senile, almost blind, tended by a swarm of nurses and servants. At the start of the novel, Hunter is lying in her bed in a similar condition, waiting for the visit of her children. We see her life as a beautiful young socialite and her successful marriage to Alfred but most of all we see her as the shining light at the centre of many lives. Her lawyer, in love, if not with her, with his idea of her, the two nurses, wittily named de Santis and Manhood, her cook, Lotte Lippmann, a former Berlin cabaret performer and, most of all, her children, Sir Basil Hunter, a successful West End actor who feels he is losing it and Dorothy, the ex-wife of a French nobleman. Basil and Dorothy are mainly interested in their inheritance, at least on the surface, but both feel that their lives are stuck in a rut and see the need to get out of that rut, without knowing how to do so. It is their mother’s death that changes both of them as well as changing the rest of the cast of characters, some for the better and some not.

In 2006, an Australian newspaper submitted the first chapter of this novel to leading Australian publishers and agents under the name Wraith Picket (an anagram of Patrick White). Two did not reply. The rest rejected it out of hand.

Publishing history

First published 1973 by Jonathan Cape