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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'Walk down your supermarket pet food aisle and you’ll be hard pressed to find a single brand that claims to be made with high-welfare meat. More expensive pet food should not be about spoiling our cats but about sparing the farmed beasts we feed them.'
'Two things prevent [this book] from collapsing under the weight of its own wayward ambition. Colin Jones, one of the finest living scholars of early modern France, is no ordinary historian. And the day in question, 27 July 1794, was no ordinary day'.
The Anatomy of Melancholy 'has never quite become a widely recognised, bona fide "classic". For long stretches, the bulk of its readership has been restricted to bibliophiles and scholars. It has had an air of murkiness and desuetude'.