Awful. I vow to never again check out a book that has won a prestigious literary award.
Although this book has some very engaging & well-written passages, I wasn't satisfied with the 1st 100 +/- pages and the last 60 or so pages. The author introduces a dozen or so characters in the first (roughly) 60 pages & if you don't read past that in one sitting, you'll probably be lost as I was. Other annoyances were: sappy metaphors ("The morning touched her hair".); perplexing statements ("Clarity departed like hallucination."); & lots of sentence fragments. The heart of the plot is a love story. After page 258 when I wanted see how the plot would be resolved, I was introduced to 14 new characters, which didn't add much to the story.
After the first few chapters, I was about to give myself the exceedingly rare permission to stop reading a book. The exceedingly annoying clipped sentences and cut down prose were not roses trimmed judiciously to showcase their elegance, they were a flower garden randomly hacked apart by a wayward whipper-snipper. I struggled to find meaning in the wreckage, and then somewhere in an hour’s enforced reading while waiting in a doctor’s office, a love story blossomed and then not even the author’s rusty blade could diminish its beauty.
After starting out as close as I’ve ever come to putting a book down, The Great Fire eventually became one I didn’t want to put down.
This week, I read two of Shirley Hazzard's novels, this one, as well as The Transit of Venus.
Beautiful descriptions, interesting and well-drawn characters in both novels. A very strong sense of place (or places) and atmosphere. I guess that I am one of her enthusiasts. It seems as though people either love her work or are bored by it.
2003 National Book Award - Fiction
I guess I just don't like this author. I found the book forgetable and couldn't understand why it won the prize. Disappointing.
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