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OMG, Ann. I feel for you, living with parents' secrets and obfuscations. On a personal level, I am thunderstruck. SHIRLEY HAZZARD! I've read only one of her novels, the glorious TRANSIT OF VENUS, but I've read it three times and urged it on a multitude of friends. Shirley Hazzard was so good, it's a wonder I didn't read any more of her novels. Perhaps I am afraid they won't measure up to TRANSIT OF VENUS.

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Well, we all live with what is thrown at us. It sounds like you had a lot more than me.

I really didn't know about the secrets and obfuscations. I thought my parents were utterly faithful to one another, let alone having an affair under our noses. I really knew Shirley very well because she was around our house so much at the time I was 13-15 or so. We had a country house in the northern Catskills (very poor farming country) and it seems that the one time Shirley went with my dad when my mother wasn't there, a local farming couple dropped in for a drink. And they were so bothered by a single woman being left alone in the house with my dad that they offered to take her to their house for her own safety that night! This was in the mid-1950s.

The funny thing is that because my mother found out (not clear how), they broke up and clearly my dad arranged for Shirley to be transferred not only out of his office but out of the country. So she went to Italy, where she found her writing voice, met her husband and her life really started. And Italy became a big thing for her.

I have read only one book of hers, which I was less impressed with than you, but it was a long time ago. I should re-read it but now it will be difficult to do so with a neutral eye.

Our many layered selves!

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It is the second time I read this story and it still moves me. It is beautifully written and very personal, but not overly dramatic. It touches me as I know all characters mentioned. Finding out that my father was having an affair would've been very disturbing to me and fortunately I don't think it was ever the case but who knows? There certainly was no writer that I knew who would've left written evidence and my father is now dead.

My favorite passage in this article: "We don’t shed these personas like snake skins. Rather, we grow new layers like trees."

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Thank you, Ann, for this reminder: it is what I love about my life so much - all those layers - and the richness it brings up when I'm writing, the 'down times' the richest of all! Judith

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Thanks for this thought provoking article. Recently I was chatting to my mum about my dad and out of the blue she said 'I wonder, if he'd lived, if we'd still be together'. The thought of them being separated before death had never ever occurred to me. Why wouldn't they still be together? I was taken aback. My mind rushed to fill in the gaps and she quickly changed the subject to fill the awkward silence.

My father was a bit of a closed book, I knew very little about his inner world. I found out more about his traumatic early life at his funeral. Sometimes I wish there had been more intimacy, more honesty but I just got accustomed to our distant polite way of being, but how much would I really want to know about him or my mother, or for that matter them about me? Sometimes the shadow has a positive protective function?

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Layered we are... thanks for this peek into your young life. Cheers, Suzanne White

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