Reviews

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Despite this Australian writer's absence from the world's fiction stage--since the 1981 publication of The Transit of Venus, which earned her great acclaim, including the National Book Critics' Circle Award--her readers have continued to hold hands in devotion and anticipation. Their thrill over her new novel will be completed; the long days and nights of waiting will be forgotten. Time and place have always been exactly evoked in Hazzard's fiction, and such is the case here. The time is 1947-48, and the place is, primarily, East Asia. Obviously, then, this is a locale much altered--by the events of World War II, of course, and, as we see, physical destruction and psychological wariness and weariness lay over the land. Our hero, and indeed he fills the requirements to be called one, is Aldred Leith, who is English and part of the occupation forces inapan; his particular military task is damage survey. He has an interesting past, including, most recently, a two-year walk across civil-war-torn China to write a book. In the present, which readers will feel they inhabit right along with Leith, by way of Hazzard's beautifully atmospheric prose, he meets the teenage daughter and younger son of a local Australian commander. And, as Helen is growing headlong into womanhood, this novel of war's aftermath becomes a story of love--or more to the point, of the restoration of the capacity for love once global and personal trauma have been shed. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2003 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

More than two decades after winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Transit of Venus, this splendid writer finally hazards another novel. Her "great fire" is World War II. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

A new novel from Hazzard is a literary event. It's been two decades between the publication of The Transit of Venus and this magnificent book, but her burnished prose has not diminished in luster nor has her wisdom about the human condition. Two men who have survived WWII and are now enduring the soiled peace, and one 17-year-old woman who has suffered beyond her years, are the characters around whom this narrative revolves. Aldred Leith, 32, the son of a famous novelist and the winner of a military medal for heroism, has come to postwar Japan to observe the conditions there for a book he's writing on the consequences of war within an ancient society. In an idyllic setting above the city of Kure, near Hiroshima, he meets teenaged Helen Driscoll and her terminally ill brother, Ben, who are the poetic children of a loathsome Australian army major and his harridan wife. Leith is drawn to the siblings, who live vicariously in classic literature, and he soon realizes that he's in love with Helen, despite the difference in their ages. Meanwhile, Leith's close friend Peter Exley, who interrogates Japanese war criminals in Hong Kong, faces a decision about what to do with the rest of his life. He dreams of becoming an art historian, but he lacks the courage to make a clean break from the law. When he suddenly acts rashly, the outcome is dreadfully ironic. The leitmotif here is the need for love to counteract the vile wind of history that breeds loss and dislocation. Hazzard writes gently, tenderly, yet with fierce knowledge of how a dearth of love can render lives meaningless. 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. (Oct.) Forecast: A certain generation of readers who know Hazzard's work will buy this book with alacrity. Widespread review coverage should generate additional attention. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In Hazzard's magisterial new work-her first novel since the award-winning Transit of Venus in 1980-the "great fire" (World War II) has already swept the world. In its wake we find Aldred Leith, raised in the Far East by a brilliant Orientalist father and distant mother from whom he is now estranged. Having served in the war and then literally walked across China, Leith arrives in Japan to join the British community managing the Occupation. Death still haunts him-there's the suicide of a servant, for instance, and the fatal illness of Benedict, a young man in the family with whom he is staying-and in fact clearly nothing will be the same after this fire burns itself out. But like those around him, Leith struggles to right himself (partly through his love, initially thwarted, of Ben's sister, Helen), and in the end he finds "a sense of deliverance." This is still a dark book, however; the unease is pervasion. Writing in prose that is restrained and well modulated but freighted with meaning, Hazzard delivers a powerful sense of one generation's loss and of the way we must all cope when the road we take doesn't double back. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.