There's a great tradition of people returning to The Transit of Venus and realizing its brilliance the second time around - Geoff Dyer and Michelle de Kretser, and now me. I first read Shirley Hazzard's novel when I was nineteen, mooning around my father's house with a head cold. I liked it fine, and retained fond memories of the two Australian sisters making their way in 1950s Europe. But it took me nearly a decade to come back to it. And my thoughts now are that maybe this is the only novel we ever needed? Like, maybe the rest of us should just give up the ghost, because Shirley Hazzard achieved perfection back in 1980. All we can do now is perform shapes and shadows of literature, genuflecting before her genius.
"The Transit of Venus is one of the great English-language novels of the twentieth century." - The Paris Review
Finalist for the National Book Award Winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award
The award-winning, New York Times bestselling literary masterpiece of Shirley Hazzard—the story of two beautiful orphan sisters whose fates are as moving and wonderful, and yet as predestined, as the transits of the planets themselves
The Transit of Venus is considered Shirley Hazzard's most brilliant novel. It tells the story of two orphan sisters, Caroline and Grace Bell, as they leave Australia to start a new life in post-war England. What happens to these young women--seduction and abandonment, marriage and widowhood, love and betrayal--becomes as moving and wonderful and yet as predestined as the transits of the planets themselves. Gorgeously written and intricately constructed, Hazzard's novel is a story of place: Sydney, London, New York, Stockholm; of time: from the fifties to the eighties; and above all, of women and men in their passage through the displacements and absurdities of modern life.
About the Author
Shirley Hazzard (1931–2016) was born in Australia but traveled the world during her early years, a result of her parents' diplomatic postings. In 1947, at the age of sixteen, she was hired by British intelligence to monitor the civil war in China. In 1963, she married the writer Francis Steegmuller, who died in 1994. Hazzard wrote several novels, two of which were National Book Award finalists: The Bay of Noon (1971) and The Transit of Venus (1981). She is also the author of two collections of short stories and several works of nonfiction, including the memoir Greene on Capri. Hazzard's final novel, The Great Fire, won the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.
"The Transit of Venus is one of the great English-language novels of the twentieth century. It's difficult to make such a straight, simple claim without wanting to modify or amplify it, but it is. It is greater than any novel by Don DeLillo. It is greater than any work by Alice Munro or Thomas Pynchon. No disrespect to those three indisputable geniuses, or to anyone else whose books have been tagged, however deservedly, with the word masterpiece, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a better novel than Shirley's." —The Paris Review
"An almost perfect novel . . . Hazzard writes as well as Stendhal." —The New York Times "The Transit of Venus is complex and luminous, like tapestries of mythological scenes, the craftsmanship admirable with no strand lost or insignificant, the details deliciously precise and the scope panoramic." —Chicago Tribune Book World
"Shirley Hazzard is a worldly writer with a sense of humor; at one twist of her skewer, the trendy and the shoddy are impaled. The Transit of Venus is an old-fashioned novel of plainest elegance." —Harper's Magazine
"Nothing gave me as much happiness as Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus. Hazzard's prose is magic on the page, somehow at once surgical and symphonic . . . All the sentences are . . . small masterpieces that amount to a large one. Read it now, so you can read it again soon." —Tad Friend, The New Yorker
"In The Transit of Venus, [Hazzard] brings a clarity and steeliness reminiscent of classical tragedy to her material—an extraordinary achievement. The sense of fatality and patterning in this flawlessly constructed novel is strong." —The Independent
"A luminous novel . . . almost without flaw. Aphoristic and iridescent, her language turns paragraphs into events." —The Washington Post Book World
"An impressive, mature novel, full and satisfying . . . The richest fictional repast I have had in a long time." —Doris Grumbach, Los Angeles Times