The Book of Fire

The Book of Fire


This morning, I met the man who started the fire. He did something terrible, but then, so have I. I left him. I left him and now he may be dead.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful village that held a million stories of love and loss and peace and war, and it was swallowed up by a fire that blazed up to the sky. The fire ran all the way down to the sea where it met with its reflection.

A family from two nations, England and Greece, live a simple life in a tiny Greek village: Irini, Tasso and their daughter, lovely, sweet Chara, whose name means joy. Their life goes up in flames in a single day when one man starts a fire out of greed and indifference. Many are killed, homes are destroyed, and the region's natural beauty wiped out.

In the wake of the fire, Chara bears deep scars across her back and arms. Tasso is frozen in trauma, devastated that he wasn't there when his family most needed him. And Irini is crippled by guilt at her part in the fate of the man who started the fire.

But this family has survived, and slowly green shoots of hope and renewal will grow from the smouldering ruins of devastation.

Once again, Christy Lefteri has crafted a novel which is intimate and epic, sweeping and delicate. The Book of Fire explores not only the damage wrought by human folly, but also - and ultimately - our powers of redemption and renewal.

Our Review

"Once upon a time, there was a beautiful village, which held a million stories of love and loss and peace and war, and it was swallowed by a fire that blazed up to the sky. The fire ran all the way down to the sea, where it met with its reflection."

The Book of Fire was a poignant read, all the more so in light of the recent wildfires in Rhodes. Christy Lefteri has such a beautiful way of writing, even when describing the desolation of the forest after the fire. 

Irini lives in a bungalow in an idyllic village in Greece. A beautiful home near an ancient forest. She lives with her artist husband and her beloved daughter Chara. Irini sees herself as a good person until a fire destroys her home and the surrounding forest. 

After the fire Irini's home is destroyed and her husband and daughter are left with both physical and emotional scars from the fire. Her much loved father-in-law has been lost without a trace since the day of the fire. As well as all these losses Irini is grieving the secondary losses of parts of her family heritage, the changed personalities of her loved ones and not least the loss of the creatures who lived within the forest. Irini is angry and it is that anger that surfaces when she sees Mr Monk in the forest in need of help. 

"This morning, I met the man who started the fire. He did something terrible, but then, so did I. I left him. 

I left him, and now he may be dead." 

The book is told both in the present and in flashbacks, a device some readers have expressed displeasure at, but I felt it worked really well. It made the whole thing seem more real, as if Irini could only stand to relive the trauma of the fire if she relayed it in third person. 

"Maybe I can write it down. Maybe, that way, I can allow myself to remember without burning. Remember it as if it is a story from long, long ago. A fairy tale with a happy ending, like one of those in the beautifully illustrated books on the shelf in Maria's kafenion. I will call it The Book of Fire."

I read The Book of Fire in just a few hours and it has cemented Christy Lefteri's place among my favourite authors. I loved the way I began by questioning Christy's moral fibre, but then before long I was questioning whether I would have done the same if I was looking into his eyes in the heat of the moment.

"Within them, I saw Lazaros. I saw Lazaros standing in the old forest. I saw the pine trees and fir trees and poplars and plane trees and oaks. I saw the weasels, and minks, the wildcats and the badgers. I saw the beautiful red deer that roamed the lowlands. I saw the birds and the rabbits and the hedgehogs and moles and rats, the lizards and the beetles, the tiny insects, the ladybirdsand butterflies. I saw the wildflowers. I saw the colours of the forest as it was...I saw then the fifteen people huddled together, the ones we had seen as we ran down to the sea from our home - they had died holding onto each other. 

I saw my husband's face and my daughter's." 

The Book of Fire is a piece of fiction but it is also a dire warning about the consequences of the damage we are inflicting on our planet.

"The forest fires have always been worse during a drought, and as the years pass, the droughts have become longer and more frequent, the land drying out most summers, and the winds becoming stronger, too, the humidity lower. The conditions have progressively worsened."

This book will haunt me for some time to come.

"While you live, shine. Have no grief at all. 

Life exists only for a short while. 

And time demands its toll." 


Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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