OVERRIDE

The Great Fire

A Novel

Shirley Hazzard

Picador

Winner of the National Book Award
A New York Times Notable Book
A Los Angeles Times Best Book
A Chicago Tribune Best Book
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book
A Library Journal Best Book
Winner of the Miles Franklin Prize
Booklist Editors' Choice
A Kiriyama Prize Finalist

The year is 1947. The great fire of the Second World War has convulsed Europe and Asia. In its wake, Aldred Leith, an acclaimed hero of the conflict, has spent two years in China at work on an account of world-transforming change there. Son of a famed and sexually ruthless novelist, Leith begins to resist his own self-sufficiency, nurtured by war. Peter Exley, another veteran and an art historian by training, is prosecuting war crimes committed by the Japanese. Both men have narrowly escaped death in battle, and Leith saved Exley's life. The men have maintained long-distance friendship in a postwar loneliness that haunts them both, and which has swallowed Exley whole. Now in their thirties, with their youth behind them and their world in ruins, both must invent the future and retrieve a private humanity.

Arriving in Occupied Japan to record the effects of the bomb at Hiroshima, Leith meets Benedict and Helen Driscoll, the Australian son and daughter of a tyrannical medical administrator. Benedict, at twenty, is doomed by a rare degenerative disease. Helen, still younger, is inseparable from her brother. Precocious, brilliant, sensitive, at home in the books they read together, these two have been, in Leith's words, delivered by literature. The young people capture Leith's sympathy; indeed, he finds himself struggling with his attraction to this girl whose feelings are as intense as his own and from whom he will soon be fatefully parted.

A deeply observed story of love and separation, of disillusion and recovered humanity, The Great Fire marks the much-awaited return to fiction of an author whose novel The Transit of Venus won the National Book Critics Circle Award and, twenty years after its publication, is considered a modern classic.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Excerpt from The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. Copyright © 2003 by Shirley Hazzard. To be published in October, 2003 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


Now they were starting. Finality ran through the train, an exhalation. There were thuds, hoots, whistles, and the shrieks of late arrivals. From a megaphone, announcements were incomprehensible in American and Japanese. Before the train had moved at all, the platform faces receded into the expression of those who remain.

Leith sat by a window, his body submissively chugging as they got under way. He
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Great Fire

“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."--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

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Shirley Hazzard

  • Shirley Hazzard is the author, most recently, of Greene on Capri, a memoir of Graham Greene, and several works of fiction, including The Evening of the Holiday, The Bay of Noon, and The Transit of Venus, winner of the 1981 National Book Critics Circle Award. She lives in
    New York City and Capri.
  • Shirley Hazzard Copyright Nancy Crampton
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Available Formats and Book Details

The Great Fire

A Novel

Shirley Hazzard

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - Nominee, Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize - Nominee, National Book Awards Winner, Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction - Nominee, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - Nominee, Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize - Nominee, National Book Awards Winner, Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction - Nominee

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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