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Reading Groups

Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus with Sheridan Hay (Sold Out)

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Once a week Wednesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT May 4 to May 25, 2022

Online via Zoom

This reading group has reached its capacity. To join the waitlist, please email Erich Slimak at

As the leader of the Henry James Reading Group for ten years or so (and as an Australian writer), it perhaps won’t surprise any close reader that The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard has been a favorite novel since its publication in 1980.

The plot is as simply described as a donnee by Mr. James: two beautiful sisters leave Australia to begin a new life in post-war England after the tragic death of their parents. The themes of innocence and betrayal, of power and corruption, of falling for (or not falling for) the appropriate person, are also positively Jamesian. In the hands of Shirley Hazzard, however, the intricacies of love, of tragedy, of colonial displacement, are inexorably played out in prose that astonishes with its clarity, with its crisp perfection. The novel is a modern classic for all sorts of reasons. The Australian novelist, Michelle de Kretser, writes in her essay on Hazzard, quoting from The Transit of Venus, that it is “a great narrative of observation—an ‘antipodean’ way of seeing is described as ‘a clear perception unmingled with suspiciousness.’ Antipodean seeing is radical, interrupting the ‘smooth flow of acceptance. It draws attention to what has been normalized and rendered invisible.’” Please join me in reading and discussing what Lauren Groff has called this “astronomical … sharp, remote and dazzling” novel. It is a revelation.

For the first meeting please read from Part One: Chapter 1 to the end of Chapter 13 (in the recently reissued Penguin Classic, page 119).

Cover Art_TRANSIT OF VENUS - Zach Cihlar

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  • Sheridan Hay Photo

    Sheridan Hay

    Sheridan Hay

    Sheridan Hay holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her first novel, The Secret of Lost Things (Doubleday/Anchor), which features a lost novel by Herman Melville, was a Booksense Pick, a Barnes and Noble Discover selection, shortlisted for the Borders Original Voices Fiction Prize, and nominated for the International Impac Award. A San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and a New York Times Editor’s Choice, foreign rights have been sold in fourteen countries. Sheridan has led The Center’s Moby-Dick reading group many times, as well as leading a popular Henry James group.