The Transit of Venus (Paperback)

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The Transit of Venus By Shirley Hazzard Cover Image

The Transit of Venus (Paperback)


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Staff Reviews

This indispensable novel is set against a background of postwar London, with themes that include power and corruption, love and betrayal, gender wars, and international politics. Shirley Hazzard's prose is magic on the page. This, her sense of place and time, and her deep understanding of human nature place this book on my list of all-time greats.

Sisters Caro and Grace, Australian orphans, move to England eager to begin their lives in a new land. They see everyone clearly, yet fall for disastrous men. Their stories, and those of the characters in their circle--unfold over several decades, during a time of great societal change--and each pays a price for the choices that they make. 

This is a novel to linger over, not rush through, and to read again and again. Hazzard's sentences are little works of art; they're powerful and striking, and often very funny. I now understand so many writers include this on their list of favorite books.

A marvel of a book.

— From Clara's Picks

"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.
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.
Product Details ISBN: 9780140107470
ISBN-10: 0140107479
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: September 1st, 1990
Pages: 352
Language: English
"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