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The Great Fire (2003)

by Shirley Hazzard

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1,727367,478 (3.43)127
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, a brave and brilliant soldier find that survival and worldly achievement are not enough. His counterpart, a young girl living in occupied Japan and tending her dying brother, falls in love, and in the process discovers herself.… (more)
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» See also 127 mentions

English (34)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
I was not impressed - Bored Stiff ( )
  MAR67 | May 5, 2021 |
It took me a while to get into this book. The actual plot is not that exciting but the characters are interesting and the setting is quite remarkable, casting a light on WWII veterans living in China and Japan to write reports, their coping with getting back to some kind of normal. ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
Ugh! This was tedious and a bit painful. Aldred Leith and Helen Driscoll are blah characters. There was nothing truly interesting about either of them as presented. You would certainly expect something to grab you about Aldred given his war experiences and subsequent travels in Asia. There is no romance in Aldred and Helen's romance. I wanted to yell at Aldred to either pursue his love or to withdraw. To Helen, I wanted to say love is not supposed to be this depressing. The subplot involving Peter's illness seems to promise more insight, but Aldred appears to withdraw from his friend's challenge to make sense of life. The Great Fire, at least in how the title refers to Hiroshima, is almost non-existent.

I recognize that this novel may have a treasure that I have left undiscovered. But I tried, and found little that I could embrace.

( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
I enjoyed this novel a lot, not the least for reading it while living through another time when mass trauma seems to manifest itself everywhere and there is a constant awareness that things are changing, in my case in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and protest against police brutality and systemic racism. It was comforting, in an odd way, to read about characters making their way through the wreckage of world war, and choosing a path toward happiness. ( )
  andystardust | Jun 10, 2020 |
I am trying not to be over-influenced by the learned voices on the cover lauding this book as a work of genius because I thought it was as dull as ditchwater. I think it’s fiction aimed at people who read books on a higher plane, where realistic dialogue is not required, and indeed nothing needs to happen from one page to the next. One can simply sit back and admire a well turned metaphor.

The post-war Japan setting seemed interesting enough, and I was hoping it would have some educational value, but what we got instead was a lukewarm love story in which a guy takes a fancy to a girl practically half his age (anyone else find that distinctly icky?) despite hardly knowing eachother, and conduct a stiff courtship described by a narrative voice reminiscent of the Pathe Newsreel. There was nothing to hook the reader, no handholds, nothing. I really didn’t like it - maybe that makes me a literary philistine, but so be it. ( )
  jayne_charles | Oct 13, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
What makes The Great Fire such a special novel is the lush and palpable desire present in so many of its pages, desire not just for physical consummation but for human connection and hope, made all the more meaningful by the backdrop of the cruelty and violence of war.
 
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Parce que, j'ai voulu te redire je t'aime
Et que le mot fait mal quand il est dit sans toi.

Louis Aragon
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For F.S.
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Now they were starting.
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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, a brave and brilliant soldier find that survival and worldly achievement are not enough. His counterpart, a young girl living in occupied Japan and tending her dying brother, falls in love, and in the process discovers herself.

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