The Great Fire

  • by Shirley Hazzard
  • Narrated by Virginia Leishman
  • 11 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

National Book Award, Fiction, 2003
This mesmerizing, poetic novel has earned universal acclaim. Set against the beautiful but tragic landscape of post-World War II Asia, The Great Fire tells a sweeping tale of the search for new beginnings in a world ravaged by tragedy.Thirty-two-year-old war hero Aldred Leith is in Japan to survey the Hiroshima devastation. His close friend and fellow veteran Peter Exley prosecutes Japanese war criminals in Hong Kong. Striving to rebuild lives shattered by war, both men reach critical turning points. Leith falls in love with a precocious and charming 17-year-old girl, while Exley faces a decision that will forever alter his path.Author Shirley Hazzard's first novel in more than 20 years, The Great Fire is an elegant and beautifully crafted story that resonates long past the final word.


What the Critics Say

"What blows away all cobwebs is the extraordinary quality of the writing, gravely beautiful and utterly attentive...[a] marvelous book." (The Observer)
"Hazzard combines emotion on a scale we associate with 19th century novels with language that has the freedom and lucid precision of early 20th century modernism." (
"The purity of her sentences, each one resonant with implication, create an effortless flow. This is a quiet book, but one that carries portents well beyond its time and place, suggesting the disquieting state of our current world." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Always found something else to do

This is one of those books that must be better as a read than a listen. I would listen for a while, lose track, rewind. You know the ritual. In the end, I got through about three hours of it. Life of Pi has a slow start but then becomes engrossing. This doesn't ever make that step. The review says it's beautifully written. I like a well written book but not something that plods along like this.
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- Margarita

Save your money and your time

The review sounded so good I couldn't resist. I was hoping for another "Memoirs of a Geisha" but boy, was I disappointed. The story bounces all over the place, never seems to have a consistent theme and finally, turns out to be just plain boring. I'll give the author some credit; the imagery is nice and having traveled to many of the same locations in Asia myself, I enjoyed her descriptions of those places set in a bygone era. Unfortunately, the budding story of a war hero's longing for a very young girl (he refers to her as the "Changeling") made me think the guy was little more than a pedophile.
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- Jim

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-16-2004
  • Publisher: Recorded Books