Monday 9 May 2011

The Transit of Venus

I've just finished The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard, which I acquired after reading a fascinating and provoking review on Tales from the Reading Room and several more from Litlove's fellow Slaves of Golconda (scroll down a bit). I liked it very much, though it's a difficult, wordy, sometimes jarring novel. It's a loaded novel: words, sentences, characters, story all loaded with allusion, significance, complexity. Nothing less than an attempt to distill the meaning and the meaninglessness of everything. It's about the growth of an age and of individuals in the wake of World War II, of flawed, difficult people, sometimes vile, more often simply cowardly. It's pregnant with sadness and resignation, with the waste and cruelty and destruction of the new prosperity and of people's personal choices, with the tragic sense of missed opportunities that so rarely come around again - as rarely as the Transit of Venus. It's a heavy book lightened by the beauty of language and the way it winds around these sad, frustrating, recognisable stories. The effect of such dense language, description and linkage could have been excessively cerebral. It isn't: the effect of this density is a thickly physical evocation of place and people. The tragedy of life is searingly portrayed. So too is its redemption occasionally by love and often by beauty. It's like no other novel I've read, and it's really rather wonderful.

1 comment:

litlove said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it - and you sum it up exquisitely here. It is a book occasionally made heavy with meaning, and a heavy book lightened by the very same beauty of that language.