The Transit of Venus

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:27 pm

The mirror in Grace's living room, for instance, seemed important--people kept looking in it, at least!

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:28 pm

I enjoyed reading the book--though have to qualify that--enjoyed some parts more than others and sometimes felt it was all a little too much uphill, but I think I am enjoying it more now that I get everyone else's perspective on it. Certainly I appreciate more what she was doing.

And for some reason I didn't catch on at first that Edmund was Ted, so maybe Hazzard only referred to him as Edmund in those flash forwards.

I know Susan has read at least one of her other books. I wonder how this compares. Are they all the same type? And I can't think of another book I've read that relied so heavily on such small pieces of information just thrown into the text so apparently carelessly--but not at all really.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:35 pm

I think this is the second Slaves reading in which I have missed a key detail...thinking of the girl's mother in The Summer Book, who apparently had died without my noticing. Gee whiz, I'm not making a very good showing here. Embarassed Ah well... And here I think of myself as a pretty careful reader. But I did enjoy working my way through it, and I actually like it better now that I see the parts I missed, which make it more impressive structurally (it felt kind of episodic to me, but this does bring it full circle, as has been said).

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Susan P on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:36 pm

I remember The Great Fire as being more difficult, but I don't know if that's really true. I ordered a copy over the weekend for a dollar, though, so I intend to read it again to see!

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:39 pm

As I'm in the middle of writing about (in my slow, distracted way!), it took me a while to figure out what direction Hazzard was heading in. The narrative seemed to go all over the place and I wasn't sure what her focus was going to be. I'll admit I got impatient during the South American section when she was introducing new characters at what felt like a very late point in the book. But by the end, I felt that the mood of the book was coherent, and the ideas were too. Now I'm seeing how the plot might be more coherent than I thought as well.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:41 pm

Don't feel bad Rohan--I missed that in The Summer Book, too. I think I only caught on after the fact when I read the introduction!

And I have a copy of The Great Fire and also Bay at Noon, but when I bought them (one I mooched) I had no idea how difficult she was and might not have ordered them had I known. Of course now I am happy to have them. I think I need something a little less challenging as a break, but I might enjoy reading her, and this one in particular again.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:43 pm

Yes, that South American part seemed almost out of nowhere. Of course it makes sense considering the work Adam did and how they met.

Wasn't Leadbetter a real jerk by the way? Caro and her coworker had some great retorts, but talk about an unsympathetic man.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:43 pm

Oh, and Rohan -- you are an amazing reader! Who knows what I wouldn't have noticed without reading introductions and getting hints from other people. I could easily have missed the second flashforward that tells what happens to Caro if Susan hadn't kindly told me to watch out for it. I wonder what I would have made of the end if I had missed it.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:45 pm

I loved the scene about fixing lunch at the office: "As is that not somewhat absurd? The purveying of--ah--victuals being an accepted part of her functions?" "By whom is it accepted?" As my son would say, PWND! (or however you spell that....)

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:46 pm

I would never have figured all this out on my own! This was the perfect sort of book to read in a group.

Yes, that is the exact scene I was thinking of!

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:48 pm

I have read The Great Fire but don't really remember it; I liked The Evening of the Holiday but found it a bit emotionally distant, as I recall--which is true of this one also, for a book about profound and enduring love!

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:50 pm

Any ideas about whether the South American section really had any particular importance? Because like others, I found it seemed like a digression.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:53 pm

Must sign off but thanks for the good discussion: if I only didn't have so many other books I really want to read, I'd reread this one right away.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:58 pm

You can't trust happiness in this book. Even the best relationships end badly -- Caro ends up a widow and she never gets a chance to get together with Paul. Everyone in the book is so vulnerable. It's like happiness is like the transit of Venus -- unreachable.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Litlove on Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:03 am

Oh this is what comes of living in the UK - I missed all the exciting discussion because I was asleep when it was happening! Like Dorothy, I felt that perfect love/happiness was being compared to the transit of Venus, and how there were so many contextual factors involved that experiencing it was almost impossible.

The South American thing was not stitched in well to the rest of the book, I felt. It only seemed to be valuable in that it gave Caro a career - translation - that would keep her occupied once Vail had died. Other than that it seemed irrelevant.

I actually read the first chapter twice, because a few days had elapsed before I picked it up again, and so I was all gung-ho to find out what the body was all about. But I waited and waited and nothing happened and I'd given up on it. Then suddenly at the end, ta-dah! But that was one heck of a wait for meaning to come around.

About three-quarters of the way through I looked up some reviews on the internet and came across some quite lively discussions by people who either loved/hated the book. There were clues to the ending there that helped me when I was reading. Without them I don't think I'd have had a clue what had happened. It was SO cloaked with only the barest hints and implications.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:17 am

Litlove: on the other hand, living in the UK put you several hours ahead of the rest of us in terms of putting your thoughts in order--loved your post.

On a somewhat different topic, I realize I am supposed to 'tag' the next person to nominate our next book. I'm not altogether sure what the etiquette is, but I had an idea I wanted to float. The recent lists of books have all included so many I'd love to read that didn't 'win' the voting: what about putting together a voting list from those that came second or third in previous rounds, maybe going back three or four turns? But if this is a breach of protocol, we can proceed as usual.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Susan P on Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:44 am

I love that idea, Rohan. Usually I find myself buying a book or two that didn't make the cut from any suggested list. Many times a book wins by only one vote, so there's definitely interest in the runners-up.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:31 am

That sounds like a great idea to me, Rohan! The lists are always wonderful, and it would make sense to keep drawing on old ones.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Lilian Nattel on Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:32 am

What I liked about this book was her inventive use of language--but I found the constant psychological analysis of character's reactions kept me at a distance from them. At times--as when she is describing Grace and Caro as children and their lives with Dora--the analysis is brilliant. But the density & unusualness of language (though I admired it) and that ongoing analysis kept me on the surface instead of forgetting that I was reading.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:42 am

I agree, Lilian, although staying on the surface is not a negative thing for me. The reading did go slowly, and I stopped all the time to think about the language and to puzzle out what was happening. I suppose I rarely forget I'm reading, so I'm content with a book that draws attention to its own language like this one does.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:50 am

Dense is a perfect word for the story--it was sometimes hard to get past that underneath it all--for me anyway. I never felt very close to the characters--more like I was on the outside looking in. Maybe a second read would would open it up more.

And I like the idea of choosing a book from previous 'runners-up'.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Lilian Nattel on Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:53 am

I also seldom forget that I'm reading--but it's what I most enjoy when it happens. I think choosing from previous runners-up is a great idea.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Litlove on Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:58 am

I'm also very much up for choosing from previous near-misses! I love the idea.

You know, what I love about this discussion is that we all respect completely the level of engagement we had with this book, the different ways we appreciated it, the different things that drew us in and held us apart from it. I am so annoyed with a commenter on my site who seems to be pestering me to change my opinion about the book because he loves the baroque language and clearly thinks I should too. Grrrr!! When will it ever become accepted that different readers respond in different ways and that this is just FINE? In fact it's interesting in and of itself, and valuable and intriguing. Sorry for the rant - for some reason this has fallen on a nerve today. Probably PMT! Very Happy

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:06 am

Pestering is certainly the right word! Yes, very annoying. Sadly, people's sense of identity is so often bound up in their opinions and they feel threatened when someone disagrees. That's my guess for why such pestering happens, anyway. It's particularly hard to take when it's accompanied by a certain arrogance and sense of entitlement. Arg!

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:12 am

That commenter (who I think I have come across before in similar pestering modes!) is underestimating the sophistication of your reading of the novel and taking you to be resisting it because it's not simply an easy read--which is a very reductive reading, on his part, of what you actually said.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

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