Dear Readers,

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Great Fire

Shirley Hazzard's the Great Fire took me a damn long time to finish. But I enjoyed it in the end. It was written in a very intense, sophisticated, non-egalitarian bookworm style, but the underlying love story and the originality of the plot made it worth plodding through. It's also always cool to see a female writer be risky with her prose. The British chicks do it best.

The plot, insofar as there is one, is about a British war vet in Japan who befriends, and falls in love with, a pair of siblings, children of a pair of, essentially, imperial stooges. The brother is dying from a degenerative disease, the sister is bright and precocious, the parents neglectful. A romance kindles between our very heroic hero and Helen, the sister. But the romance is only the spine: this book spans the east and stops in Italy and London, and touches very lightly (yet no less painfully) on the horrific aftermath of war and disease. Hazzard's characters are elegant literate folk and the entire thing feels drizzled with a grey mist that I'm guessing is a bit of British weather and war-weariness pervading the writing.

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