Shirley Hazzard (1931–2016) published her first short story in The New Yorker in 1961. The magazine continued to publish her work in the decades thereafter, including excerpts from her most successful and beloved novel, the bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, The Transit of Venus (1980). This biography celebrates her life and writing.
De Kretser must have had fun, and difficulty, selecting quotations to illustrate her admiration. They succeed at 'giving readers unmediated access to [Hazzard’s] prose'' ... I especially enjoyed de Kretser’s unpicking of Hazzard’s technical skills, from vocabulary and syntax to naming characters, often invisible to general readers except in their effects.
... compact, intriguing ... Making no attempt to be exhaustive, de Kretser carefully chooses what interests her about Hazzard’s work ... These disparate subjects are unified by the deep attachment de Kretser feels to Hazzard’s work, and the author herself. While this is unlikely to be accessible to those who aren’t familiar with Hazzard’s oeuvre, it stands as a deeply felt if idiosyncratic tribute.
De Kretser’s book is strongest in its very personal, often moving appreciation for Hazzard’s work. As literary criticism, the narrative is flawed. De Kretser provides only bits and pieces about Hazzard’s life and brief reflections about important novels ... She offers little biographical, historical, critical, social, or political details and no cited references that would help those not already acquainted with Hazzard and/or Australian 20th-century literature more deeply appreciate this important novelist. As a result, the book reads more like a disconnected collection of poignant private musings than a text meant to educate readers who might be interested in exploring Hazzard’s life and work ... An incomplete tribute that may please some Hazzard fans but leave others adrift.