The Great Fire Author:Shirley Hazzard From The New Yorker: — Hazzard is nothing if not discriminating. Hierarchies of feeling, perception, and taste abound in her writing, and this novelher first in more than twenty yearstakes on the very notion of what it means to be civilized. The fire of the title refers primarily to the atomic bombing of Japan, but also to the possibility of tran... more »scendent passion in its aftermath. In 1947, a thirty-two-year-old English war hero visiting Hiroshima during the occupation finds himself billeted in a compound overseen by a boorish Australian brigadier and his scheming wife. He is immediately enchanted, however, by the couple's childrena brilliant, sickly young man and his adoring sisterwho prove to be prisoners in a different sort of conflict. In the ensuing love story, Hazzard's moral refinement occasionally veers toward preciosity, but such lapses are counterbalanced by her bracing conviction that we either build or destroy the world we want to live in with our every word and gesture.
This book has won many awards, including the National Book Award, and Shirley Hazzard's prose can be wonderful. For me, it was a little bit of a struggle to read through the entire book. Much of the story centers on an unlikely love story in the East, immediately after WW II.