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Wondrous Words Wednesday: The Eye of the Storm

I've got a couple of words for Wondrous Words Wednesday, the meme hosted by Kathy over at Bermuda OnionThey come from the novel The Eye of the Storm, a book written by Australian Nobel Prize winner, Patrick White, back in 1973 and adapted for the screen last year. The film is only now being released in the states (September 7) and I'd like to read the book before I see the film.

Rampling plays Mrs Hunter, an aging and bedridden woman whose two grown children, Basil, (Geoffrey Rush) and Dorothy (Judy Davis) have returned to Australia from London and France respectively. I've only just begun and am finding it fascinating and challenging. White sometimes write sentences that go on and on curling inside themselves for what seems like pages. He uses stream of consciousness frequently and it isn't always clear just whose head he is inside. That being said I'm finding it really compelling.

Supping - "Mrs Hunter was supping her brandied coffee; soon she would grow muzzy and sleep."
Out of context, I would have thought the word meant having supper. What could be simpler? In fact dictionary.com defines the word as "to eat the evening meal, to have supper" but the context makes it clear that White can only mean supping =sipping.
So instead of 'eating', Mrs Hunter was sipping her brandied coffee.
Go figure!

Rentes - "Her folly had been to value the friendship of those who respect rentes." In the passage, Mrs Hunter has been a weatlthy woman and is bemoaning her dwindling assets; I wasn't entirely sure what White was saying but I assumed  rentes meant rent Again, my assumption was off.
Dictionary.com defines rentes this way : "revenue or income, or the instrument evidencing a right to such periodic receipts." Also called 'rentes sur l'é·tat'.  Merriam-Webster was a little clearer. "a government security (as in France) paying interest; also: the interest paid"
With the definition in mind, it seems like Mrs Hunter is realizing that she may have relied too much on her own investments for her economical security as well as acknowledging that she lives in a rarified world surrounded by friends who know little of work and the value of that work.
I've only read about 50 pages of the book; I have a feeling White's writing is going to have me reading and rereading passages several times. Hopefully I'll be able to finish the novel while it's still in the theaters here.


  1. Now you have me intrigued by this book! I like the idea that she "supped" her brandy, liquid supper?

  2. I've heard supping used to mean eating but never drinking. How interesting!

    1. It seems like he decided to use the word in a way that he saw fit.

  3. Oh dear, Patrick White is Hard. I've only read one- Fringe of Leaves. It took me 3 months to get through it. Noone will think the less of you as a reader, or a person, if you have to give up! I do want to see the movie though, and plan to see it without reading the book (which is the usual way I do things, because he is so Hard). Having said that some of his books are Australian icons and I feel somewhat obligated to give them a crack at some stage.

    1. I am slogging through it! The main character - the bed-bound Elizabeth Hunter - lords it over her family and caregivers. She's quite the manipulative matriarch which makes for great reading so the slogging so far is worth it. Having met the mother, son and daughter in print, I'm looking forward to seeing their onscreen versions. Such great actors!


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