THE TRANSIT OF VENUS by Shirley Hazzard
Kirkus Star

THE TRANSIT OF VENUS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Hazzard's most spacious fiction yet, spread over large expanses of time and situation that somehow remain intimate—a comic, social book that turns into a wise, sad one. Caroline and Grace Bell, Australian orphan sisters, board after World War II at the home of a famous old English astronomer. Ted Tice, a young colleague of the famous man, falls in love with Caro (whose book this mainly is—excepting one luminous chapter in which an older Grace falls in love with her son's doctor). Caro, though, loves Paul Ivory, a playwright; and when he marries a lovelessly bitchy society woman (we later learn why), his betrayal feels so great that Caro can't properly bind the wound until she meets and marries a rich American with a social conscience, Adam Vail. After Adam's death in New York, Paul Ivory, his son dying of leukemia, calls on Caro to make a terrible confession—a murder by negligence, a witness (Ted Tice) silent all these years—that literally upends Caro's entire picture of her past, a whole life revised in an instant; Hazzard's finest stroke is making this true and real and horrible. How she does it is through a huge but lightsome charity toward the people in the book, as short or long as they come. A species of hyper-smart romantic fiction is avoided by the insistence not only on Venus' transit but on the wisdom of love, especially as women know it yet cannot keep it. And though the prose is at first a little daunting, unmodernly rich ("She was watching with some large feeling, less than love, in which approval and exasperation merged to a pang that Ted Tice should supply, in a little scene of varnished attitudes and systematic exchanges, the indispensable humanity"), once you get to know the characters, these Jamesian boluses dissolve. A novel of empathy and depth, to be read with slow savor.
Pub Date: Feb. 29th, 1980
ISBN: 9780140107470
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1980




11 NOVELS WHOSE FINAL PAGES WILL SHOCK YOU:

FictionSWEET TOOTH by Ian McEwan
by Ian McEwan
FictionTHE TRANSIT OF VENUS by Shirley Hazzard
by Shirley Hazzard
FictionTHE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE by Marian Keyes
by Marian Keyes
FictionTHE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE by Michel Faber
by Michel Faber
FictionGONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn
by Gillian Flynn
ChildrenALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth
by Veronica Roth

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS: