The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard

Last month, for our book club, we read “The Great Fire” by Shirley Hazzard. This is her 2nd book in 20 some odd years. She won the National Book award in 1981 so the world has waited quite a long time for her second book.

I happen to be a speed reader. I admit that I do not read every word but I have found that when I do, my apptitude or pleasure is not much more on a scale of 1 to 10. So, I began this book one night and read about 20 pages. The next night, the following and the next night, the following again. I got to about page 50 and decided that I wasn’t thrilled so I put the book down for later and picked up something else.

I was in one of my favorite book stores and asked their thoughts on this book. Both women working their told me, you must sit down and read the whole book or a huge portion of it to truly appreciate the entire story. Well then. I took the book along on vacation but never cracked a page. I got back on a Sunday morning and my book club was on Monday. So, I took their advice (started the book all over again – something I don’t think that I have ever done before) and I sat down on Sunday afternoon and basically read the entire book.

I’m glad that I read the book. It is not only a love story but a tale of post WWII and the destruction felt around the world. The writing captures the despair, chaos and death of war. Considering we are at war ourselves and we are reading about despair daily on the front page of our newspapers, it is an interesting time to read this book. She writes about the disconnection of war yet at the same time the connection between the US, Australia, Japan and Europe post-war.

I would recommend this book because it stays with you. The writing is beautiful. She has written a book that could be enjoyed and discussed a 100 years from now, just as easily as it is today. I do recommend that you curl up on a couch for a few hours and plow through the book instead of reading it on and off. There are too many interweavings of characters and places that take time to connect and unless you make serious headway on the book, I find, you have a hard time making the connections.