The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard


Audiobook.  This appealing story tells of the recovery from the events of World War II (the great fire) of several characters.  The appealing main character, Aldred Leith, is in Japan and China to write a book in 1947.  The head of the base where Leith stays in Japan is evil, matched in evilness only by his wife.  Their son is dying and his 17 year old sister is his close companion.   The Driscoll parents had set the two adrift; they traveled across the globe to Japan on their own.  Leith who is in his early 30s and the two young people bond as they read poetry together and cope with the horrors around them.  The story of Peter Exley whose life was saved by Leith during the war is another wrenching one.

We hear about Leith's youthful loves, two Italian sisters he met while studying and his brief affair with the mother of a friend who died as a very young man fighting in Spain.  After his affair with Aurora ends, Aurora meets Leith's father with whom she has an affair that lasts to the end of his life.

Leith and Helen Driscoll (the sister of the dying son) are reclaimed from their own horrors by their love for each other.

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