The Transit of Venus

by Shirley Hazzard

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Shirley Hazzard’s novel, The Transit of Venus, follows sisters Caroline (Caro) and Grace Bell throughout several decades of their lives. They become orphans as children, when their parents are killed in a ferry accident, and they are raised by their half-sister, Dora. They are from Australia and emigrate to England when they are twenty. Grace meets and marries Christian Thrale, a stable yet irritating man. Christian’s father, Sefton Thrale, is a scientist who has invited astronomer Ted Tice to work with him, and this is how Caro meets him. Ted immediately falls in love with Caroline, and although they go out, she eventually rejects him, choosing instead Sefton’s godson, Paul Ivory. Paul is a playwright who is engaged when they meet; he eventually marries Tertia Drage. When Tertia becomes pregnant, he and Caro stop seeing each other, and Caro is devastated. She, in turn, marries American Adam Vail and goes from being poor to wealthy and secure.

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