Photo by unforth used under a Creative Commons license.
Shirley Hazzard, The Great Fire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003).
A novel of the aftermath of World War II. In 1947, Aldred Leith, a decorated British veteran and former POW, is stationed at the naval base in Kure, near the ruins of Hiroshima, finishing a book on his recent travels in China. His friend, Peter Exley, an Australian, is prosecuting war crimes in Hong Kong. Both are wrapped up with the war’s aftermath, needing new promise. Leith finds this in the precocious children of the brigadier: Benedict, a 20-year-old boy with an incurable disease, and his 17-year-old sister, Helen, with whom Leith falls in love. The obstacles to this romance seem insuperable, especially when Helen’s family departs for New Zealand and Leith for England. The story moves around the world, but it particularly evokes the sites and moods of post-war Hong Kong (where Hazzard lived then) and Wellington. The Great Fire won the National Book Award in 2003.
Links to various reviews are here. The National Book Foundation has an excerpt. Hazzard did this on-line chat after The Great Fire won the National Book Award. You can listen to an interview with the BBC, and this piece on the The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC. MSNBC profiled Hazzard. She was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation after winning the Miles Franklin Award. Here are reviews from Judith Shulevitz (Slate), Thomas Mallon (The Atlantic), Alan Wall (The Guardian), Peter Craven (The Sydney Morning Herald), Jim Barloon (The Houston Chronicle), Charles Taylor (Salon), Adam Mars-Jones (The Observer), Tom Nissley (The Stranger), Neil Jillett (The Age), Nicholas Addison Thomas, Alden Mudge (WaterBridge Review), and Liz Fraser. And you can listen to Alan Cheuse review the book on NPR. Blogtastic reaction from
caribousmom, Susannah, Wendy, Howard Choo, Nate, beche-la-mer, Lisa.
Buy it at Amazon.com. (N.B. — Here’s a bargain price that may not last.)