Carolyn Mck's Reviews > The Evening of the Holiday

The Evening of the Holiday by Shirley Hazzard
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really liked it

When Shirley Hazzard died last year I decided to re-read her work. I used to own a number of her books but culled them when I moved a few years back so now I'm dependent on the library which has all but one of her fiction titles.

The Evening of the Holiday is her first novel (1966) and an exquisite one. It is the story of a love affair in Tuscany - and written in a way that probably would not be possible today. Why? We would not expect renunciation. Tancredi is an Italian who has a reputation for levity while Sophie, an Englishwoman, is very serious. Tancredi is separated from his wife but divorce is not possible.

It seemed rather unlikely to me that they would fall in love and certainly the outcome of their affair could not be conceived in the same way now. One can guess, from the title, how things will end. But Shirley Hazzard convinces us, in the only way a novelist can, through the strength and subtlety of her language. In many ways, this reminds me of Anita Brookner novels - quietness, patience, solitude, love without hope.

But it is so beautifully written. There is a chapter about a storm that is absolutely brilliant - in its force and its references. It brings back to me the sensuality and history of Italy, the primness and self-abnegation of some Englishwomen, the restraint in which love (and lust) was expressed in a past era (my youth).

The death of Luisa, Sophie's aunt, and its aftermath was perhaps the most moving thing for me about this novel. "On these occasions no one can feel quite free of blame. It is first of all, difficult to exonerate oneself from a sensations of having contrived to stay alive while someone else has perished, and from the awareness of having, no doubt, behaved imperfectly to the dead."

Because of the recent death of my much loved sister, this resonated with me. We always read novels within the ambit of our experience at the time. This one was perfect for me.

I look forward to reading more Shirley Hazzard this year.

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Reading Progress

March 13, 2017 – Started Reading
March 13, 2017 – Shelved
March 15, 2017 – Finished Reading

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