Night of Fire: A Novel

by Colin Thubron

Hardcover, 2017

Call number

FICT THU

Collection

Genres

Publication

Harper (2017), 384 pages

Description

"Award-winning, bestselling novelist and travel writer Colin Thubron returns to fiction with his first novel in more than a decade, a searing, poetic masterwork of memory. A house is burning, threatening the existence of its six tenants--including a failed priest; a naturalist; a neurosurgeon; an invalid dreaming of his anxious boyhood; and their landlord, whose relationship to the tenants is both intimate and shadowy. At times, he shares their preoccupations and memories. He will also share their fate. In Night of Fire, the passions and obsessions in a dying house loom and shift, from those of the hallucinating drug addict in the basement to the landlord training his rooftop telescope on the night skies. As the novel progresses, the tenants' diverse stories take us through an African refugee camp, Greek Orthodox monasteries, and the cremation grounds of India. Haunting the edges of their lives are memories. Will these remembrances be consumed forever by the flames? Or can they survive in some form? Night of Fire is Colin Thubron's fictive masterpiece: a novel of exquisite beauty, philosophical depth, and lingering mystery that is a brilliant meditation on life itself"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member SheTreadsSoftly
Night of Fire by Colin Thubron is a recommended story of seven lives.

The old Victorian house that was divided into apartments years ago is on fire. Night of Fire delves into the lives of the tenants who will be dying in the fire on this night. The inhabitants whose life stories are told include a failed priest, a neurosurgeon, a naturalist, a photographer, a school boy, a traveller, and the landlord. The landlord has two chapters, one at the beginning and the end. The rest of the victims and their lives are covered in long chapters devoted to them. The basement tenant is mentioned, but as a victim who died immediately. Thubron uses the musings and recollections of these people to explore life's essential questions, memories and seeking answers to find a deeper meaning in their existence. All of them are either named Steven or some derivative of the name: Stephen, Steve, Stephanie.

While beautifully written, I was left detached and unable to connect with the stories of these people. The setting, in a burning house, where you know these people are all going to die, never coalesced for me into a cohesive whole. The long chapters on the lives of these various tenants are all like short stories until their fate is met. I would concede that perhaps I need to contemplate Night of Fire more to divulge more meaning and connections between characters, but it also left me with no burning desire to do so. The rating is based on the quality of the writing and the fact that I found some of the stories very intriguing and captivating, just not all of them.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
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LibraryThing member nikkinmichaels
There's some beautiful writing here, as well as an intriguing exploration of memory, death, and reincarnation — but overall I found NIGHT OF FIRE rather tedious.
LibraryThing member Berly
From the Amazon blurb: "Award-winning, bestselling novelist and travel writer Colin Thubron returns to fiction with his first novel in more than a decade, a searing, poetic masterwork of memory.

A house is burning, threatening the existence of its six tenants—including a failed priest; a naturalist; a neurosurgeon; an invalid dreaming of his anxious boyhood; and their landlord, whose relationship to the tenants is both intimate and shadowy....

In Night of Fire, the passions and obsessions in a dying house loom and shift, from those of the hallucinating drug addict in the basement to the landlord training his rooftop telescope on the night skies. As the novel progresses, the tenants’ diverse stories take us through an African refugee camp, Greek Orthodox monasteries, and the cremation grounds of India. Haunting the edges of their lives are memories...

Night of Fire is Colin Thubron’s fictive masterpiece: a novel of exquisite beauty, philosophical depth, and lingering mystery that is a brilliant meditation on life itself."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were parts of it that didn't work for me stylistically, until I got to the end and then thought, "I'm an idiot! I have to go back and reread this--I missed so many connections!" I can't explain more than that without ruining things, but I really want a buddy that I can talk this one though with. Poetic, intriguing, sad, beautiful.
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LibraryThing member kcshankd
A little slow to rev up, but racing by the time you reach the end. It will be very hard to not spoil the surprises in any review. The author hits again and again on memory and the brain and the self there in. A substantial attempt that I like more the more I reflect on it.
LibraryThing member flourgirl49
What a strange book. A house is burning, and as the stories of the lives of each tenant are told, I was struck by how many similarities there were in the stories - which, I will tell you frankly, I didn't even start to comprehend until probably two-thirds of the way through the book. Now that I realize what the author was up to, I would have to read the book again to gain a clear understanding of the scope of his efforts. It's rather an astounding achievement - however, I don't think I can go through this again as the writing was somewhat tedious in parts. Several professional reviewers called this the author's "masterpiece" - not having read any of his other works, I could not agree or disagree. It was definitely different!… (more)
LibraryThing member irregularreader
This poetic book is told in a series of interconnected vignettes. As an apartment building succumbs to fire, the reader visits each resident in turn, from a neurosurgeon to a priest, a young boy to a naturalist. With each chapter, we learn a little bit about each tenant, their pasts, futures, hopes, and dreams.

The interconnectedness of each vignette is not immediately obvious, but as you read further and further on, you begin to experience small niggles at the back of your brain, a sense of deja vu. Each chapter teases out a little bit more about the nature of memory and the fragility of the self.

This synopsis is a bit vague, and I apologize. But the nature of the book makes it hard to summarize succinctly without spoiling the book. Let me tell you instead that the book is extraordinarily well crafted. Layers of meaning underlie each chapter, and the nuance of words and names are well done. The writing style is on the poetic side, but not dense.

This book is not at all what I typically read, but it was a lovely trip outside of my comfort zone. I really had no idea what to expect when I opened the cover, but I’m incredibly glad that I took the time. I think most people who enjoy books that require some extra thought will enjoy this book.

An advance copy of this book was provided via a Powell’s Indiespensable book box (seriously, you need to subscribe). Night of Fire will be available for purchase on January 17th, 2017.
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Pages

384

ISBN

0062499742 / 9780062499745
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