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The Transit of Venus Paperback – September 1, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140107479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140107470
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Hazzard here tells of two sisters, Grace and Caroline Bell. Born in Australia and orphaned at an early age, the two make their way to England. There Grace opts for marriage and its securities; Caroline reaches for more and loves not always wisely but well. "A strong, deep, poetic, vibrant novel," lauded PW.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

'Shirley Hazzard. For me the greatest living writer on goodness and love ... THE TRANSIT OF VENUS, was described to me by a man who knows as "the greatest novel written in the past 100 years". Having read it, I can see his point. Shirley Hazzard, the quiet, playful, lovestruck artist of love, goodness and death in the 20th century. Bryan Appleyard A wonderfully mysterious book ... Both plot and characters are many layered. Unforgettably rich ANNE TYLER A dose of the sublime .. I read it with an almost indescribable pleasure. There were sentences that brought tears of gratification to my eyes NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW An almost perfect novel ... Miss Hazard writes as well as Stendhal NEW YORK TIMES --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's beautifully written, absorbing.
Arlene W. Weiner
The characters were not at all interesting.
Ray Smith
Very boring read 50 pages never got hooked.
Pamela J. Bender

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

206 of 218 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hand on June 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
So why on earth would anyone want to read The Transit of Venus? Some say the writing is pretentious: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. That word came to mind last year while I was reading Shirley Hazzard's 2003 National Book Award winner, The Great Fire. Yet I couldn't stop reading. Since I wound up loving that book, I decided to try this one, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award more than two decades ago (1980). Midway through my reading transit, on June 8, 2004, a Transit of Venus occurred, the tiny planet moving like a dot across our gigantic sun. (In 1769, James Cook set sail in the H.M.S. Endeavor to study a Transit of Venus and found Australia, hence the tie-in with this novel, which is primarily an Australian woman's transit through love and life.)
Reading Shirley Hazzard is like climbing a mountain, agonizing over the rocks and rarified air during the long, arduous uphill climb. Struggle is not the same as suffer. Most modern books are downhill sloped, where the reader floats or speeds effortlessly toward a simplistic conclusion. A Hazzard novel is more vertically inclined, where one needs to stop on occasion to catch a breath, and then, when the climax comes, you are on a mountaintop, not the valley floor. It is not a transit intended for aliterates, much less illiterates. Hazzard might not be the author for you if you don't know, and don't care about, the meaning of words like "impercipience" and "abnegation." Also, if you're less than thrilled with such lines as "Magnanimity shaped a sad and vast perspective," and "My task, as I see it, is to adumbrate the sources of his entelechy," then you might want to move along to another bookshelf.
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89 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Dan Booth Cohen on October 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Transit of Venus is the only novel I return to again and again through the years. When Shirley Hazzard writes the line, "Although the dissolution of love creates no heroes, the process itself requires heroism," it speaks not to the mind trying to follow a plot line, but to the depths of the heart and soul. Early on in the book there is a scene, that serves no essential purpose for advancing the plot. The two would-be lovers are on a bus. The bus doesn't lurch and they are not thrown together in an embrace. Not moved by fate, their orbits take them in different directions. It's a very subtle interaction, one that will surely be lost on the Harlequin crowd. This novel took seven years to write. It is one of the finest, most delicately constructed works of art, you will ever read.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written novel - when I finished reading it, I had to start over again. The first time I rushed through it, intrigued by the plot. The second time to relish the language.
It is a series of pleasures, combining an acuity of observation of human behaviour delivered with surprising, sometimes startling, similes and metaphors. While the content is not light-hearted, there is a warmth, humour and intelligence which comes through, so that the overall effect is positive.
I haven't enjoyed a read like that in a very long time.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
Simply put, I have read THE TRANSIT OF VENUS many times over, and am always astonished to find new layers of meaning in this exquisite tapestry of a novel. Following two sisters from their Australian childhood through their lives in London, Hazzard is uncompromising and true to her tale. The style is unique; the episodes thrilling. Lovers, husbands, places and careers are set before these two women and before us, and even the most cameo appearance of a character or scene is rendered with the skill, reality and destiny-laden force given the heroines. Even when that destiny is tragically small. This is a novel on a par with the greatest of Eliot. From page one, Hazzard reveals a world where Fate and personal nature duel, often to the cold victory of the one and to pain for the other. But there is beauty in the pain we see; for us, and for these women we come to know so well. No one who cares about modern literature can afford to pass this by, and TRANSIT is more than deserving of the many fresh reads I intend to give it.
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64 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
At first, your club's poor opinion of TRANSIT shocked me. Then I recalled that I'd recommended it to a friend who also ran a book club in NYC; her friends were not quite as dismissive as yours about the book, but they too found it difficult to understand. Without meaning in any way to deride your taste or that of your circle, I can only speculate that TRANSIT disappoints because modern eyes are less than eager to embrace its very different style. You call it 'affected'; yet I assure you that I can usually spot affectation before the cover opens, and Hazzard is in no way guilty of such. There is to me a beautiful and rare RHYTHM in her writing. It is musical and poetic in the best senses of those words, and readers largely accustomed to the fourth-grade syntax and tone of most modern popular novels will, I suppose, feel lost. As for its being 'unintelligible': my turn to be lost. The lives of two sisters are followed, and that's all. They're followed with exquisite attention and fatalistic power, but followed plainly.
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