Wednesday 14 December 2016


Sad news today of the death of Shirley Hazzard, one of the finest writers of the latter half of the last century. I remember the first time I read The Transit of Venus, thinking, right through from the opening pages to the end, I have never read anything like this before, this is quite extraordinary - and deeply moving, in ways far beyond the scope of most modern novelists. The Bay of Noon, though slighter, I found almost as impressive, particularly in its exploration of love and nuances of feeling - Hazzard could discriminate as finely as Henry James, but without the agonised circumlocution. She also had a strong sense of place (perhaps a product of her own transnational life), and she could turn a phrase - I remember noting many down as I read her, in a notebook that was later, sadly, lost. Her other major work, The Great Fire, is quite as extraordinary (and often as moving) as The Transit of Venus, though I was not as entirely convinced as I was by the earlier work. What it does show is a willingness, and an ability, to explore a subject unfashionable in modern fiction: goodness. Goodness and love were Hazzard's themes - eternal themes - and her works will surely live on.
 Oddly, I'd been thinking of re-reading The Transit of Venus. I shall now.

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