The Evening of the Holiday
"This short, eloquent novel is the story of a festival - the celebration of a love affair in a summer countryside - and of the anti-climax that follows festivals. It takes place in a festive setting of pastoral beauty and antiquity, and all elements contribute to the celebration, while the participants act within their knowledge of the approaching evening.
"Sophie, half English, half Italian, meets Trancredi, an Italian separated from his wife and family, and in telling the story of their encounters in Italy, Miss Hazzard punctures the placid surface of civilized society to reveal subtle yearnings and unexpected responses in sophisticated, self-analyzing people. Sophie's aunt Luisa, impartial, sceptical and reliable, provides the ironic counterpoint which is so much a part of Miss Hazzard's tough-minded, anti-sentimental observation of the nature of love and the nature of human beings."
"This is one of the most beautiful short novels ever written...so pure, so true, composed of details every one of which, with marvellous delicacy, summons up life in the large." - Paul Horgan
"The compass of the scene is small and the language simple. But the impact on the reader is extraordinarily intense. Rarely is emotional power so finely mingled with a writer's perception of meaning and of means. The prose is carefully dispassionate, but the passion is powerfully present. And for readers battered by the explicit, Miss Hazzaird's illusions and inferences come not, merely as a relief but as a sort of literary triumph." - New York Times Book Review
"In this near-perfect first novel, 32-year-old Miss Hazzard proves that she writes like no-one except herself. Much of the book's charm arises from the fact that the reader never quite discovers how the author makes a small masterpiece out of such unlikely material ... she chooses her words with such delicacy and precision that even ordinary situations acquire poetic shadings." - Time
"The writing is extraordinarily light and accurate. Miss Hazzard's aptness will delight again and again' - New York Herald Tribune
"The Evening of the Holiday is alive with quiet grace. Its technical mastety is concealed; it exhibits no virtuosity to intrude upon the reader's attention, but is transparent as air; through which we see clearly. It is simply a work of art, made with words which admit no paraphrase because they are so rightly and finally composed to achieve, in the one possible way, the precise effect intended." - Chicago Tribune
"Trancredi," Cabriella said to her brother, "you must show them the fountain."
"All in good time, my dear," he replied irritably. "Let's have our tea in peace."
They were not really having tea; the word referred only to the hour. Italians are not good at entertaining in their houses in the late afternoon. It is precisely the time when they would normally be rousing themselves from the siesta and looking forward to the evening in the cafe. Also, they don't quite know what to serve; tea, if done properly, should be an ambitious affair with cakes and scones, which they would not dream of providing, and they have never pretended to be sherry drinkers, which would be the convenient way out. So one is likely to be confronted, as on this afternoon, with half a bottle of sweet vermouth and a plateful of stale macaroons.
From the Macmillan hardback edition, 1966.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Shirley Hazzard Page.
Last modified: December 13, 2001.