Book Review: The Evening of the Holiday by Shirley Hazzard

There’s an understated elegance in this short novel that tells the story of a young woman spending a holiday in the Italian countryside and an end of a summer romance.

Sophie meets Tancredi, an Italian who is separated from his wife and family. Amidst the courtesies of society, celebration of the town festival and walks in the countryside under the languid heat, their romance leisurely unfolds but not without its troubles.

Sophie, being half-Italian, half-English, merely glides along the periphery of Italian society. She is aware of herself standing outside the glass looking in, seeing and living but not quite belonging. Hazzard subtle brings her foreignness to the fore by the few facts of reality and some metaphors.

There is Sophie in the middle of a crowd going in the other direction by herself while the rest moves in the opposite way. Her meeting with Tancredi outside the walls connoting that the consummation of their togetherness is only possible when they are both outside the deep-seated reign of intrinsic culture.

Shirley Hazzard has a beautiful way with words like a fading afternoon light that turns every surface almost magical. The fountain scene in the beginning is one of the remarkable scenes for me. I could almost hear the tinkle of Sophie’s bracelets as it fell into the water (it seems fountain scenes are quite magical, remembers Atonement).

The Evening of the Holiday is infinitely stirring, restrained and flowing with just the precise measure of sentimentality and yet it bursts quietly, lingering, and leaving me with discordant relief.

This review is part of my original post from our book blog, Deluged with Books.


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