Voss describes an epic journey, both physical and spiritual. The eponymous hero, Johann Voss, is based on Ludwig Leichhardt, the nineteenth-century German explorer and naturalist who had already conducted several major expeditions into the Australian outback before making an ambitious attempt to cross the entire continent from east to west in 1848. He never returned.
White re-imagines his story with visionary intensity. Voss’s last journey across the desert and the waterlogged plains of central Australia is a true ‘venture to the interior’. But Voss is also a love story, for the explorer has become inextricably bound up with Laura Trevellyn, whose inner life, like his own, is at odds with the world. In language poetic and passionate, yet at the same time grounded by shrewd, often comic, social observations and naturalistic portrayals of a wide variety of characters – farmers, convicts, aborigines, the colonial middle class and their servants.