The Great Fire, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


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 centre 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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Second World War fiction
  • ISBN: 9781844080571



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Shirley Hazzard and her late husband were friends with Graham Greene, and I can see shades of the latter's work in <i>The Great Fire</i>. I don't mean to suggest Hazzard's style is derivative, merely that she shares his talent for describing characters thrown into chaotic situations overseas. For me the scenes of foreign people and places were more interesting than Leith's unconsummated love affair; I wanted more of them. I liked the writing very much though, and I will return to this author.

Review by

Irritating protagonist, book saved by glorious prose, but not a great read overall.

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