Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Great Fire (by Shirley Hazzard)

This is our next book club book, and I loved it. L-O-V-E-D loved it. One of the blurbs on the back talks about how Hazzard's psychological subtlety reminds them of the writing of Henry James, and I think that's dead on. Except the prose is easier than James's convoluted sentences. In fact, it's just gorgeous prose. I didn't just read this book, I savored it.

The Great Fire refers to a few different things, mostly the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which provides a backdrop for the novel (but is really not emphasized) and of course, human emotion. The characters are, broadly speaking, people stumbling through a post-war Wasteland, trying to find something to live for, and forging connections with each other.

The reviews for the novel are fairly mixed; people have issues with one of the central relationships and some people found it hard to read. I wonder if there will be some debate at book club. But I think it's an amazing, classic book--deserves to be in the canon, absolutely. A definite contender for my favorite book of the year so far.

Oh, and P.S.--one of the best last lines of a novel, ever.

"I'd come from the land of the single hope attained. One thing didn't lead to another, but was the sole consummation. People longed for a house and garden, or they pitched it all on a sight of the cliffs of Dover. The women longed to be married, come what might. The evidence achieved, you could die happy." -Page 120

Another wonderful quote, but kind of a spoiler:

"The man, instead, went to his own room and to his table--to those papers where the ruined continents and cultures and existences that had consumed his mind and body for years had given place to her story and his. He could not consider this a reduction -- the one theme having embroiled the century and the world, and the other recasting his single fleeting miraculous life." -Page 188


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