BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Incendiary by Chris Cleave

IncendiaryFor awhile, before it became an international bestseller, Chris Cleave‘s debut novel was known not so much for the actual details of its content, but for the fact that the book was generally about a London bombing and that the surreal timing of its publication date somehow landed on July 7, 2005, when four suicide bombers hit the London Underground and a London bus, killing more than 50 people.

So much was made about the book’s timing that Cleave will “no longer comment” on the subject, as he states in the interview included in the updated 2011 paperback edition: ” … fifty-six people died on that day and hundreds more were injured, which means 7/7 is their day not mine.” If you must know more, his website includes “The story behind ‘Incendiary.'”

To say the story is powerful is a simple understatement. Written directly addressed to Osama Bin Laden, the almost-300 epistolary pages are one woman’s desperate attempts to make sense of a world gone completely awry. The nameless woman, who remains anonymous throughout, lives every day facing fear and anxiety: her husband is a London policeman who works in bomb disposal. Every time he’s called to the job, she never knows when or if he might return.

When her husband and their four-year-old son go off to a football (soccer for us Americans) match, she ends up in flagrante with her would-be lover in front of the telly, left on in the background. What looks like a snowy short in the transmission turns out to be a terrorist bomb that shatters the stadium. The husband and child are gone. The woman survives in body, but survival for her heart and mind is tenuous at best. What happens with her posh young lover – and his even posher lover – unfolds one shock after another.

To tell you much more would be an injustice to the story … but I must add this final thought: as you’re reading (or listening, as I did, to Susan Lyons narrates with alarming detachment), ask yourself from various points of view … what would you do??!!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2005



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