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The Collected Stories of Shirley Hazzard Reviews

The Collected Stories of Shirley Hazzard by Shirley Hazzard

The Collected Stories of Shirley Hazzard

Shirley Hazzard

4.31 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication date: 5 Nov 2020
ISBN: 9780349012957

'Shirley Hazzard is, purely and simply, one of the greatest writers working in the English today' (Michael Cunningham). Now at last comes the first complete book of her short stories, including those previously uncollected.

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
4 stars out of 5
Helen Sullivan
18 Dec 2020

"In the Australian-American author’s precise fiction, devastation is the subject and the aim "

To enter this world – “Hazzard-land”, as the writer Alice Jolly calls it – is to surrender to being in the company of characters who know the classics, quote poetry and move through elegant surroundings wearing nice clothes. Her writing feels more old-fashioned than the 1950s and 60s in which her stories are set – which might be why, like a frog left to simmer in a delicate consommé, we don’t see our own total annihilation coming.


4 stars out of 5
17 Jan 2021

"This definitive collection of Hazzard’s short stories is a welcome reminder of her remarkable talent."

Hazzard’s stories, almost exclusively published in the New Yorker, built her early reputation. This impressive collection confirms their enduring stature. It is not in these tales, however, that Hazzard’s most compelling writing is to be found. She began to write novels in the late 1960s, mostly abandoning the shorter form, and it is in these that her razor-edged narrative skills are fully realized. The Great Fire, her final novel, is an unforgettable testament to the desolations of war, and to those who survived. But it is in The Transit of Venus, where passion contends with the unrelenting demands of politics and history, that Hazzard produced her tragic masterpiece. With a scale of ambition unlike anything else in her work, the novel stitches threads of reference across the sweep of decades into a searing denouement. Enjoy the preparation provided by these tales – then turn to The Transit of Venus.

4 stars out of 5
24 Dec 2020

"Carefully crafted and astutely observed"

Hazzard’s prose is marked by its precision; she took her vocation seriously, redrafting each page up to 30 times. Her style is often compared to Henry James, and the slowing down of time allowing for the extended reflections of the former lovers in The Picnic is certainly Jamesian. While conceding a shared care for language, however, she resisted the comparison, arguing that her work was more amusing, more sensual, brisker and less snobby. She preferred to be likened to George Eliot, despite it being an admission of old-fashionedness.

5 stars out of 5
13 Dec 2020

"She’s an artist with an eye on immortality"

Most of them written for the New Yorker in the 1960s, these 28 short stories point in the direction of her two masterly, prizewinning novels, The Transit of Venus (1980) and The Great Fire (2003), but they are also a delight in themselves: conventional, almost old-fashioned, yet rich, accurate and piercingly intelligent. Hazzard sees the folly and cruelty in human hearts, and also the depth of love. She celebrates beauty, and does so in a beautiful manner, with sentences densely packed and deftly balanced.

4 stars out of 5
Stephanie Merritt
30 Nov 2020

"full of precisely observed studies of thwarted connection"

Often by portraying its absence, these stories assert the importance of true connection, in the elegant, scalpel-sharp prose for which Hazzard has been admired since her earliest work. Devoted fans may feel a little cheated – only two of the stories here are truly “new”, discovered in typescript among her papers after her death – but the collection offers a fine introduction to a remarkable writer who deserves to go on finding new readers.

5 stars out of 5
27 Nov 2020

"On and off the page, Hazzard’s is the sparky, considered voice of a world-class observer of humanity."

What makes her different from other writers who like to show off their cleverness is that Hazzard is actually focused on the frailty and dignity of the human condition. (She even presents us with rather more offstage drownings and car and air crashes than we might expect, statistically speaking. Sentimental, she is not.) Now, finally, her clear-headed brilliance seems to be on a steep upward popularity curve. Hazzard, above all, makes us proud to be human in what can too often be a degraded world.

3 stars out of 5
21 Nov 2020

"Hazzard is wonderfully attuned to subtle shifts in moods and feelings, particularly when writing dialogue, at which she excels"

Of the eight previously uncollected stories in this new volume, none is merely makeweight. ‘Sir Cecil Rides’, for example, both in its dense texture and Far Eastern setting, bears comparison with Hazzard’s final novel, The Great Fire (2003). The two unpublished stories are perhaps less compelling, though ‘The Sack of Silence’ plays an amusing set of variations upon the theme of noise and its absence. While the book has been poorly served by its editor, who has not troubled to give a date of publication for any of the stories, the 28 collected here perfectly showcase the elegant prose, emotional intelligence and dark humour that make Hazzard such a pleasure to read.