Saturday’s Book: “The Solid Mandala” by Patrick White


Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

This book is a “slow read”. And in this case I think that it is a good thing. I’ve been reading it for weeks and have been tempted to write a “mid-way-through” post but am glad I didn’t. The final third of the book ties everything together in a riveting manner, at a faster pace too. A lot of things fall into place.

First of all, it must be read slowly because of the incredible use of language. I sometimes stopped and reread a paragraph just because I was amazed that I now had some new piece of information and wasn’t quite sure how the author had conveyed it. Other times I had to think about what White meant when he used certain descriptions. His world of rich imagery, based on Britain and Australia (when the twins in the story immigrated they had to learn “Australian” ) is one I can understand, but some of it requires some conscious thinking first.

Then there’s the meaning of things. This book is much more than a tale presenting the lives of two inseparable twin brothers, who only together form a whole person. My impression is that the brothers also represent the two sides of religion. The formal, rigid, perhaps cold, “do this and don’t do that” side, vs. the warm and compassionate side, which reaches out to help people. I believe White means religion in general, and not just Christianity, because there is an important Jewish character as well.

Begin this book when you are prepared to give it time, and read all the way through.

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