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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Great Fire

The Great Fire

A Novel

Picador Modern Classics

Shirley Hazzard

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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A great writer's sweeping story of men and women struggling to reclaim their lives in the aftermath of world conflict

The Great Fire is Shirley Hazzard's first novel since The Transit of Venus, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1981. The conflagration of her title is the Second World War. In war-torn Asia and stricken Europe, men and women, still young but veterans of harsh experience, must reinvent their lives and expectations, and learn, from their past, to dream again. Some will fulfill their destinies, others will falter. At the center of the story, Aldred Leith, a brave and brilliant soldier, finds that survival and worldly achievement are not enough. Helen Driscoll, a young girl living in occupied Japan and tending her dying brother, falls in love, and in the process discovers herself.

In the looming shadow of world enmities resumed, and of Asia's coming centrality in world affairs, a man and a woman seek to recover self-reliance, balance, and tenderness, struggling to reclaim their humanity.

The Great Fire is the winner of the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction.

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

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...

Praise for The Great Fire

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

“Shirley Hazzard is, purely and simply, one of the greatest writers working in English today. Which makes me more than grateful to have this long-hoped-for new novel.” —Michael Cunningham

“I wish there were a set of words like 'brilliant' and 'dazzling' that we saved for only the rarest occasions, so that when I tell you The Great Fire is brilliant and dazzling you would know it is the absolute truth. This is a book that is worth a twenty-year wait.” —Ann Patchett

“Shirley Hazzard has written 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

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Reviews from Goodreads

Shirley Hazzard

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 previous novels are The Evening of the Holiday (1966), The Bay of Noon (1970), and The Transit of Venus (1981). 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.

image of Shirley Hazzardo
Copyright Nancy Crampton

Shirley Hazzard

Author Biography on Britannica

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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