Collected Stories of Shirley Hazzard: Carefully crafted and astutely observed

Book review: Bygone era of intellectualism she evokes lends air of formality

The first short story Shirley Hazzard ever wrote was plucked from the slush pile of the New Yorker by William Maxwell, the magazine’s long-standing fiction editor. Maxwell, who would go on to publish most of Hazzard’s short fiction, later recalled the submission as “an astonishment to the editors because it was the work of a finished literary artist about whom they knew nothing whatever”.

Collected Stories, edited by her biographer, Brigitta Olubas, contains two previous volumes: Cliffs of Fall (1963) and People in Glass Houses (1967). It also includes eight uncollected stories – among which is the inaugural story, Woollahra Road, about a girl in Depression-era Australia – as well as two unpublished works found among Hazzard’s papers after her death in 2016. While the two posthumously-published pieces are, unsurprisingly, not fully developed, the voice is unmistakably Hazzard’s, containing her characteristically clever repartee.

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