The Great Fire

Winner, National Book Awards 2003 for Fiction

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard, book cover 2003
ISBN 9780312423582
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
photo of Shirley Hazzard
Shirley Hazzard

Shirley Hazzard (1931-2016) wrote several novels, two of which were National Book Award Finalists: The Bay of Noon (1971) and The Transit of Venus (1981). Her The Great Fire won of the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction  More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

Ravaged by the closing events of World War II, Japan in this novel is an ancient society struggling to cope with the brutal implications of defeat in modern warfare. Aldred Leith, military hero and son of a famous novelist, has come to Eastern Asia to observe firsthand the subject matter of a book he intends to write. There he meets Helen, the teenaged daughter of a local Australian commander, and becomes captivated by her ability to live vicariously through literature. Despite their differences in age, the two gradually are drawn to one another. Both must heal from the recent global horrors before regaining the capacity to love.