One From the Archive: ‘Cliffs of Fall’ by Shirley Hazzard ****

First published in April 2014.

I had not read any of Hazzard’s books before, so I thought that this short story collection which I found in my library would give me a great feel for her writing style.  Ten tales in all make up Cliffs of Fall, and from the very first page, it is clear that Hazzard is an extremely perceptive writer.  She brings little details to the forefront of each scene, thus allowing her readers to focus on the elements which they may have otherwise overlooked. 

Each of the stories in Cliffs of Fall deals with human condition against a wealth of different, relatively ordinary settings and scenes – a party at a friend’s house, a couple sorting out a bookcase, an Italian man deciding to rent out rooms in his house, and so on.  Throughout, I was reminded of Alice Munro’s short stories.  Hazzard too is talented at presenting rather a quotidian occurrence and making it somehow immensely interesting.  Her characters are set against very distinct backgrounds, and the relationships which they have with one another play out accordingly.  Her descriptions, though sometimes a little few and far between, are sumptuous.

Hazzard is great at not stating the obvious; rather, she leaves some details up to the reader’s interpretation, and some of the stories are deliberately left ambiguous. As is often the case with short story collections, some of the tales here are more interesting than others, but I enjoyed them all.  I am now very much looking forward to reading her novels to see how they compare.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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