A Fringe of Leaves

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A Fringe of Leaves
Fringe of Leaves.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorPatrick White
Cover artistSidney Nolan, Mrs Fraser and Convict (oil and enamel on composition board, 1962–1964) in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery.
Published1976 (Jonathan Cape)
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)
Pages405 pp
LC ClassPR9619.3.W5 E9 1973

A Fringe of Leaves is the tenth published novel by the Australian novelist and 1973 Nobel Prize-winner, Patrick White.


Cquote1.png ... she fell back upon the dust, amongst intimations of the nightmare which threatened to re-shape itself around her. Her trembling only gradually subsided as she lay fingering the ring threaded into her fringe of leaves... Cquote2.png
A Fringe of Leaves, p 223

A young Cornish[1] woman, Mrs Ellen Roxburgh, travels to the Australian colonies in the early 1830s with her much older husband, Austin, to visit Austin's brother Garnet Roxburgh.[2][3] After witnessing the brutalities of Van Diemens Land, the Roxburghs embark on their return trip to England on The Bristol Maid. However, the ship runs aground on the coral reef off Fraser Island on the coast of what is now Queensland. Ellen is the only survivor from the leaky vessel in which the passengers and crew travel to the shore. She is rescued by the aboriginal people of the island, and she later meets Jack Chance, a convict who has escaped from Moreton Bay (now Brisbane), the brutal penal settlement to the south. It is Chance who escorts her through the dangerous coastal territory south to the outskirts of the settlement, but who refuses to accompany her further and returns to his exile. She returns to "civilisation" transformed and tormented by her experience with Garnet in Van Diemen's Land, with the aboriginal people, and with Chance.

The novel sets in sharp relief the distinctions between men and women, whites and blacks, the convicts and the free, and English colonists and Australian settlers. The contrast between Ellen's rural Cornish background and the English middle-class she has married into is also highlighted.[4]

Historical references[edit]

Cquote1.png To indulge in such an unlikely fancy could not be regarded in any degree as a betrayal, but while she walked, her already withered fringe of leaves began deriding her shrunken thighs, and daylight struck an ironic glint out of the concealed wedding-ring. Cquote2.png
A Fringe of Leaves, p 229

The shipwreck and rescue parts of the novel reflect the experiences of Eliza Fraser, who was also shipwrecked on the island that bears her name, met with an escaped convict who had lived alongside the island's aboriginal people, and married a "Mr Jevons". She, however, eventually returned to the UK.

White's novel is (arguably recursively) often cited about Fraser Island and Eliza Fraser.[5][6]


  1. ^ WARD, Jill (28 September 2007). "Patrick White's A Fringe of Leaves". Critical Quarterly. 19 (3): 77–81. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8705.1977.tb01632.x.
  2. ^ Macauley, Rome (30 January 1977). "30 January 1977". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Why bother with Patrick White?". arts.abc.net.au Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 16 February 2001. Archived from the original on 2 February 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
  4. ^ Schaffer, Kay. In the wake of first contact: the Eliza Fraser stories. p. 165.
  5. ^ "Fraser Island – Culture and History". Sydney Morning Herald. 19 November 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
  6. ^ Rowell, John (27 October 2007). "Written in the sand". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 12 March 2009.

External links[edit]