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GREAT FIRE Hardcover – 24 September 2019
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- Publisher : MACMILLAN USA (24 September 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 528 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250239427
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250239426
- Dimensions : 9.65 x 2.96 x 15.44 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 254,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"Beauty is felt in almost every line of this austerely gorgeous work." --Chicago Tribune"So majestic in scope and so sophisticated in diction it evokes a rhapsodic gratitude in the reader...Calls to mind the writerly command of A.S. Byatt, Lawrence Durrell, Nadine Gordimer, and Graham Greene." --The San Diego Union-Tribune "The last masterpiece of a vanished age of civility." --The Wall Street Journal "[The Great Fire] sails into port like a magnificent ship of fiction from another era." --Entertainment Weekly "The Great Fire is about both the destructive conflagrations of war and the restorative conflagrations of the heart. Hazzard's moving, generous story paints love as the greatest rescuer of all--as apt today in our troubling, troubled world as it was 55 years ago." --San Francisco Chronicle "Hazzard writes with an extraordinary command of geography and time.... Flashes of violence cut through the contemplative narrative, but in her exquisitely cut sentences, hazzard concentrates on the subtler movements of these hearts cauterized by violence." -- Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor "A hypnotic novel that unfolds like a dream: Japan, Southeast Asia, the end of one war and the beginning of another, the colonial order gone, and at the center of it all, a love story."--Joan Didion, author of Where I Was From
"Stunning . . . Shirley Hazzard has gifted us, in The Great Fire, a novel of indispensable happiness and sorrow. I loved this novel beyond dreams."
--Howard Norman, The Washington Post Book World "A classic romance . . . the greatest pleasure is [Hazzard's] subtle and unexpected prose."
--Regina Marler, Los Angeles Times Book Review "What better gift . . . than a novel that confirms the value of the individual--the individual heart, mind, spirit--even amidst the obfuscating demands of history and politics and culture ... . [The Great Fire] is a novel of incredible emotional wisdom, full of authentic characters, vivid places, and language that is both precise and beautiful."
--Alice McDermott, Commonweal magazine "The Great Fire . . . streaks through a reader's ken in the manner of a comet."
--Thomas Mallon, The Atlantic Monthly "[Hazzard's] prose remains one of the glories of English literature."
--Charles Taylor, Newsday, "Our Favorite Books of 2003" "The Great Fire is a perfect book, without a superfluous word . . . radiant."
--Eve Claxton, Time Out (New York) "The most interesting novel published this year . . . Exquisitely crafted ... Every sentence hits its mark."
--The Economist "Brilliant and dazzling . . . A book that is worth a twenty-year wait."
--Ann Patchett "The Great Fire is a brilliant, brave, and sublimely written novel that allows the literate reader the consolation of having touched infinity. This wonderful book, which must be read at least twice simply to savor Hazzard's sentences and set pieces, is among the most transcendent works I've ever had the pleasure of reading."
--Anita Shreve "Purely and simply, one of the greatest writers working in English today."
About the Author
Shirley Hazzard (1931-2016) was born in Australia, and in early years traveled the world with her parents due to their diplomatic postings. At sixteen, living in Hong Kong, she was engaged by British Intelligence, where, in 1947-48, she was involved in monitoring the civil war in China. Thereafter, she lived in New Zealand and in Europe; in the United States, where she worked for the United Nations Secretariat in New York; and in Italy. In 1963, she married the writer Francis Steegmuller, who died in 1994.Ms. Hazzard's novels are The Evening of the Holiday (1966), The Bay of Noon (1970), The Transit of Venus (1981) and The Great Fire (2003). She is also the author of two collections of short fiction, Cliffs of Fall and Other Stories (1963) and People in Glass Houses (1967). Her nonfiction works include Defeat of an Ideal (1973), Countenance of Truth (1990), and the memoir Greene on Capri (2000). She lived in New York, with sojourns in Italy.
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Semi-autobiographical in part and the first novel that had been published by the author in twenty-three years this is told in the third person narrative style and takes in the viewpoints of three characters, although Major Aldred Leith is the main character of the book. Arriving in Japan in 1947 so he is there more from a sociological angle rather than an occupation force soldier. As he meets the family who he will be staying with as such, the Driscolls, so he forms an attachment with the children of the family, falling for the seventeen-year-old Helen, although he is himself in his early thirties. These are two of the characters that we read from in this tale, along with Aldred’s friend Peter Exley.
The story itself is rather subtle and although bringing up a number of themes, never really pursues them making this a story of ideas more than anything else. The romance between Aldred and Helen seems to read as somewhat false and more of an infatuation than the real thing although Helen who can be seen as the author did herself marry a much older man in Francis Steegmuller. Never really grasping matters by the horns so this does raise the atrocities of the preceding war as well as colonialism and the damage that had done. We can also see that although Britain may be the Mother Country for those who come from Commonwealth nations, it is fast losing its power and influence in the world as America and Russia become the two major forces, with worries about what will happen with China as Mao starts to make inroads.
This thus becomes style over substance, which if you are interested in Asia and this period of history does not manage to give us a better understanding through the author’s eyes, and will annoy a number of people at times with subtle allusions to literature and history, that if it does not go over the heads of many, will with others cause annoyance as they are unaware of what the allusions are pointing to, creating alienation when other readers are aware of these ‘in-jokes’ as such. It will be interesting to see how the discussion we have about this book will go at our next meeting, and I am sure there will be a number of varied opinions.
A book to read, and then re-read.