The Transit of Venus

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The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 2:42 pm

Hi, all. I just thought I'd get this thread started. I have to admit this is one of the more difficult books I've read in quite a while. I'm very glad I did so, but I am also glad I read it in a group as I think I might not have persevered. She completely surprised me in those last 40 or so pages. I did not see that coming, but after reading a little about it and rereading the beginning I see it all comes full circle. I guess I need to read more closely.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:00 pm

Hi, Danielle, thanks for starting up the thread! I agree that it was a difficult book and that it helped to have some peer pressure to move me along. I was surprised at the particular characters and storylines that ended up getting me emotionally involved: I was really interested in Caro's marriage to Vail and the move to New York, for instance, and actually expected something more melodramatic to come of the South American excursion. I was surprised, in the end, that it seemed fairly affirmative or romantic [update: temporarily only, clearly! as I now understand properly], ... Did the rest of you assume they were going to be together?


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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Stefanie on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:04 pm

So you see why the ending made me swear? Smile

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:30 pm

Wait a second -- don't they die at the end? Or am I misreading things? I'm going to go write my post now, but I couldn't resist stopping in here first.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:49 pm

Yes, they do die at the end. Maybe that's why she hid those hints. Ted commits suicide in a northern country (that was in the first few pages) and Caro gets on the plane that crashes on the way to Rome--the hint was the mention her opthamologist would die in a plan crash.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:52 pm

Thank you, Danielle! That's what I thought, but then I began doubting myself. I can't quite figure out what I think about the importance of those two flashforwards. Isn't it a little bizarre that she would let the ending hang on two sentences that are kind of buried, especially the second one?

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:52 pm

I didn't expect them to get together. As a matter of fact I was confused as to where she was taking the story and was losing my bearings and feeling restless with it all when Paul Ivory confessed his "crime". Somehow it all came together then. I had a sinking feeling all the way through that it would not end happily, but I suppose she and Ted at least found each other temporarily. It's almost cruel to do that to the two of them after all they went through.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:54 pm

Oh for goodness sake: after all the hints on Twitter you'd think I would have picked up that clue too--I noted the opthamologist reference and didn't put the pieces together. Sigh. I guess by the end I was getting a bit impatient re all the hidden details...


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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:54 pm

I would have missed the second one had not Susan gave warning. It was weird. I wonder why she buried them like that and did she want people to think they had got together? Had I read this on my own I am sure I would not have been clued in until well after the fact of reading the book and maybe reading something about it.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:56 pm

Rohan--does knowing that they die change how you feel? Somehow I was feeling distant from the two anyway, but I was also expecting Ted to die already--not sure what was going to happen to Caro.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:57 pm

It makes more sense, actually, as I felt all kinds of foreboding around how ill Caro looked (though I took that to be mental rather than physical), and then the whole tone of the book did not seem, well, encouraging for a romantic ending. I had simply forgotten the allusion at the start to Ted's suicide--another reason why ideally I should really reread books, rather than just read them, before trying to write about them...

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Susan P on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:59 pm

There's also a tiny little flashforward on the first page of chpt. 37 involving the concierge at the hotel: Later that week he was to tell his family, "He was in the hotel on Tuesday. Large as life." and that's immediately followed by Edmund Tice was approaching the peak of his career.--we know he dies before that.

(Is Ted called Edmund anywhere but here and the first flashforward?)

Reading back through the book today I noticed lots of foreshadowing, Caro going down to Hades/subway, even something about a plane exploding. We just don't know what we're reading the first time through.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:59 pm

This also reveals to me that I really was more distracted by the language than I'd even thought: I kept wandering off into sentences and losing track of who character were, for instance (Charmian Thrale, for instance, kept confusing me when she turned up, until something recalled her to me.)

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Susan P on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:01 pm

What I wondered was if Hazzard always intended to tell the ending via the flashforwards or if she put them in because an editor, her husband, someone, thought the ending wasn't clear enough.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:02 pm

I felt the ending was harsh and cruel -- but fitting with the rest of the book. I admire Hazzard for sticking to her dark vision of things. The scenes where Caro is working in London and is lonely are truly awful and Paul is awful, so the ending is suitably awful. But I kind of agree that life can be like that, and the book strikes me as artistically unified.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:02 pm

The strangely reminds me of M Night Shyamalan's Sixth Sense, where you don't realize what you're really seeing until you know the trick at the end and then it all makes perfect sense. But knowing it now wouldn't ruin it for me to read again. I almost feel now at a place where I could actually understand what was happening and get more out of the story. It sort of feels like a trick, but I sort of really like it.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:05 pm

I was also caught up in just trying to understand the story and would forget who was who and then when Paul was talking about Ted's 'secret' I thought I would have to go back and try and remember what that secret was. Luckily he referred to it finally. The was just So Much to grasp in this book I can see I got even less than I thought.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:06 pm

I just did a little of what I should have done when I first felt adrift, which is to review the first chapter...It seemed very abstract to me when I first read it (about 3 weeks ago, which wd be my excuse for not having recalled it clearly!).

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Susan P on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:07 pm

It reminds me of Rosalind Belben's Our Horses in Egypt. That one's also terribly elliptical, but when I finished and started reading parts over again, things that had confused me before seemed obvious.

It's a trick I like, too.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:08 pm

Thanks for pointing that out, Susan.

I had trouble remembering some of the characters as well, but I like the complexity of the various relationships she described -- that seemed to be the point of it all for me -- to explore the various ways relationships develop, in most cases going bad. The only positive relationships seemed to be Caro and her husband and the potential of Caro and Ted.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Susan P on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:09 pm

When Caro betrayed Ted and told his secret to Paul I fully expected the secret to be used in his next play. I thought that was going to be the cause of Ted's sucide.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:13 pm

Looking at the key 'flash forward' moment about Ted, I suppose technically it doesn't preclude his having gone safely to Rome except for the comment about the timing, the peak of his career: that provides the crucial clue for him. Then the clues re Caro and the plane are kind of a separate thread. Complicated!

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:13 pm

I have a feeling that rereading that first chapter would be a great epiphany--so many things will come together. I understand from reading an essay about it that they also talk of discovering a body in those first pages--which I totally missed, but must have been the man Paul was having a fling with.

And I also think this is very much a way of exploring relationships--particularly romantic ones. And each couple and situation was a different side to it all. I felt very bad for Grace that she never got to have anything more with Angus Dance that a hand hold--not that I think she should have had an affair, but.... Her husband was such a fuddy duddy and a cheapskate.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:15 pm

Paul would have been nasty enough to do just that--am surprised he didn't. I wonder why he told Caro. I think he wanted her to suffer. He was such a callow character.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:16 pm

It's funny, actually, because as I was reading this I was thinking how unlike detective fiction it is--and yet again, as I look back and see the planted hints / clues (like the opthamologist pieces) they were giving me information I should have been hanging on to, as I would have with detective fiction, but during my reading they did not stand out in that way.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

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