2010: 32. The Transit of Venus

“By nightfall the headlines would be reporting deviations.”

The Transit of Venus, Shirley Hazzard

        This novel, a classic piece of literary fiction, tells the story of two sisters, Grace and Caroline Bell, orphans who move from Australia to England with their quasi-evil stepsister.  The novel merely traces the story of their lives, and the events that happen to them, but does so with breathtaking prose and a clocklike efficiency so that we aren’t sure whether the sisters are being dragged along by fate or just the victims of life itself.  Which isn’t to say that their lives are miserable, rather that the way the events of the story are set up, seemed, to me, like the author was grappling with the question of whether we are free agents or whether there is some divine clockworker putting our pieces in place.

       Which isn’t to say this is a tiresome post modern novel of ideas - it is first and foremost the story of real people and their real lives, and you can read it alone for the love stories, widowhoods, betrayals, marriages et. al.  But there is something else there too, which I think elevates it from the everyday to the sublime - not to mention that Hazzard is a damn fine writer.  It’s funny - I read this a while ago (I am, you may have noticed, very far behind on my blog), and until I started to write this I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed the book, and just how impressive it is. I must seek out some more by  Hazard. 


Date/Place Completed:  March 2010; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017