Anna Shapiro reviewed the book for The Observer in 2002, and wrote: "Elegiac, sombre, musical, and gripping, Embers is a brilliant disquisition on friendship, one of the most ambitious in literature." Shapiro continued: "About a milieu and values that were already dying before the outbreak of World War II, it has the grandeur and sharpness of Jean Renoir's 1937 movie masterpiece La Grande Illusion, with which it shares, in both oblique and pronounced ways, some of its substance."
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