The great fire at the heart of this rueful, understated love story is not the famous London fire but that caused by the bombing of Hiroshima. Aldred Leith, a writer. makes the stricken city the focus of his visit to Japan. In the shadow of his revered father, a writer of genius and a ‘loveless’ man. Aldred has cultivated independence and placelessness, and h& travels take him away from friends, an estranged wife, and potential life-long loves. The other great fire, which gathers intensity slowly over the course of the novel is Aldred’s love for Helen, a girl half his age who, caring for her dying brother, lives across the world from him. This is a gentle and decorous romance, fostered over years of separation, in which the idea of literature as sustenance makes a powerful motif.
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