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 ...
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, a brave and brilliant soldier finds 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. 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.
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The sweep of the story is breathtaking, a wonderful overview of the Second World War Asian theatre. The main character, a man, was unconvincing, however. He seemed to live for love, not competition with other men, as most men I know do. His career choices and frustrations were never touched on. It was all too obvious that the author was an Australian, critical of her own country, and looking for a refined older Englishman to rescue her adolescent Aussie girl.
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