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.
Shirley Hazzard. For me, the greatest living writer on goodness and love . . . THE GREAT FIRE so overwhelmed me that I came close to being unable to read the last three pages. If the last sentence doesn't make you gasp and weep, you are not fully conscious . . . Shirley Hazzard, the quiet, playful, lovestruck artist of love, goodness and death in the 20th century. ' Bryan Appleyard 'I wish there were a set of words like 'brilliant'