Shirley-hazzard-8Mary Duffy at Literary Hub:

Hazzard has a way of showing us both what hangs in front of each interaction and what is being concealed, at once. She writes everything with occlusion and revelation, circling round and round with her language the way a stand-up comedian uses a “call-back” to best effect. Each time she does this, it’s startling. In The Transit of Venus, two sisters Grace and Caroline have lost their parents in the sinking of a ship called the Benbow—more or less the inciting or defining incident of their childhoods—and an unstable maiden half-sister must take over their care. When Caro encounters Tertia, the sad, slightly villainous fiancée of the man she loves, Tertia arrives in a Bentley and describes her car as being in “showroom condition.”

In that first meeting, it is apparent that Tertia is vain, self-important. But Hazzard gives her reader curiosity and empathy with the bonus of one of her call-backs: “As to Tertia, Caroline Bell wondered what Benbow had capsized her into this showroom condition.” It’s a line I come back to again and again. Though it’s too specific to have much use as a standalone quotation, it is a shorthand I have when I meet a new person. I love the generosity of the assumption that we each have a Benbow which might explain, might allow others to forgive us our horribleness. What Benbow lurks in your past?

more here.