The Bay of Noon
"The scene of Shirley Hazzard's new novel is Naples, against whose ancient and fantastic background the modern action takes place. Among the protagonists is Jenny, young and pretty, who has come to Naples in flight from a sombre drama, unaware that larger drama awaits her there. She has an introduction to a Neapolitan woman, and one day she idly follows it up. This is her leap through the looking-glass. The story unfolds in a pattern of light and shade. Other people appear; Gianni, coming and going from his Roman film studio, Justin Tulloch the untouchable. Their lives merge under Vesuvius, and finally tear apart. Shirley Hazzard has an extraordinary talent for conveying states of mind and tones of voice. As readers of her earlier books will remember, no nuance escapes her in her telling of the larger tale, and this absorbing and entertaining novel is a triumphant blend of narrative and evocation."
By nightfall the headlines would be reporting devastation.
A military plane crashed that winter on Mount Vesuvius. The plane had taken off from Naples in fog; some hours afterwards it was reported missing. The search went on for hundreds of miles around - over the Ionian Sea, and at Catania, at Catanzaro. Two days later, when the fog lifted, we could see the wreck quite clearly, crumbled against the snow-streaked cone of the volcano, overlooking the airfield from which it had set out. No one had thought of looking close to home.
Since that time, so they say, we have developed better methods of keeping in touch. For it is twelve or fifteen years, now, since the accident took place.
When i was a child I used to be filled with envy when adults recalled events of twelve or fifteen years before. I would think it must be marvellous, to issue those proclamations of experience - 'It was at least ten years ago', or 'I hadn't seen him for twenty years'. But chronological prestige is tenacious: once attained, it can't be shed; it increases moment by moment, day by day, pressing its honours on you until you are lavishly, overly endowed with them. Until you literally sink under, them.
From the Macmillan hardback edition, 1970.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Shirley Hazzard Page.
Last modified: December 11, 2001.