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Incendiary by Chris Cleave

Incendiary (2005)

by Chris Cleave

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9935713,795 (3.75)85
When a woman's four-year-old son and husband are killed in a suicide bombing at a London soccer match, the woman writes a letter directly to Osama bin Laden to convince him to stop his attacks. The woman then takes a job helping the anti-terrorism effort, but outside her doors, the world feels like a war zone--and it pushes her to desperation.… (more)
Recently added byjthielking, private library, Chellemariak, karenshann, LellyMac, TRadke, edm627
  1. 40
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (VenusofUrbino)
    VenusofUrbino: Both books are good basis for "literature of terrorism."
  2. 21
    The Other Hand by Chris Cleave (Booksloth, Booksloth)
  3. 00
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel (LDVoorberg)
    LDVoorberg: Both are graphic stories about (in part) how people deal with trauma. Narrative style is also similar.
  4. 00
    Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both books have as their protagonist a mother who is unlikeable, yet very sympathetic.

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Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Incendiary is the second book I've read by Chris Cleave. I didn't feel it came up to Little Bee, but it is still a very good read. I listened to the audio version which was narrated perfectly by Tracy-Ann Oberman.

This is the story of a working class woman living in London, who suffers a horrible tragedy, then tries to cope. The novel is written in the form of a long letter to Osama bin Laden. Normally, a novel written in the form of letters is called epistolary, but this book deviates from the letter form by including so much description and dialogue that I wouldn't use that term.

The narrator is a brash and imperfect woman, but described in a way that brings the reader into her world enough to create sympathy for her. Here's what she says about herself early on:

I was what The Sun would call a “dirty love cheat.” My husband and my boy never found out, oh thank you, God. I can say it now they're both dead. I don't care who reads it. It can't hurt them anymore. I loved my boy. And I loved my husband...Sex is not a beautiful and perfect thing for me, Osama. It is a condition caused by nerves.

Sex helps her deal with life's problems prior to the tragedy, but afterwards, it isn't enough.

I had a problem with the novel's ending and I also felt there were some conflicts in the way the narrator perceived reality that weren't sufficiently explained by her state of mind. Still, this is a good book. It captured me and I felt it painted a full picture of a young mother who at first was trying to build a life that was a shelter, a place of love. Here's how she described a part of that place.

Our boy had his own room it was cracking we were proud of it. My husband built his bed in the shape of Bob the Builder's dump truck and I sewed the curtains and we did the painting together. In the night my boy's room smelled of boy. Boy is a good smell it is a cross between angels and tigers.

Her own imperfections along with the horrors of life in the 21st century pushed tragedy into her world. This novel is about what happens after that.

Steve Lindahl – author of Hopatcong Vision Quest, White Horse Regressions, and Motherless Soul ( )
  SteveLindahl | Dec 25, 2017 |
Incendiary by Chris Cleave is written as a letter to Osama bin Laden. It is written in the words of a working class woman whose husband and four year old son perished in a terrorist bombing of a sports stadium. The young woman is experiencing all the grief and trauma that one would expect from such an event but she is also consumed by guilt as she was with another man when her “boys” were killed. Incendiary didn’t garner the best of reviews from the critics when it was first published due to it’s extraordinary timing. The book was released on July 7th, 2005, the same day four suicide bomb attacks took place in London. This timing caused most of the advertising and promotion of the book to be halted.

Personally I found this an absorbing story of the aftermath of tragedy, both on the part of the main character as well as how it was handled by the British Authorities. Indiscriminate reprisals against Muslims, curfew being put in place, barrage balloons floating over the city all helped to create a background that had a very real feeling. As for the main character, I felt very sorry for her, but I had nothing in common with her and I disagreed with many of her decisions. I soon realized that she was going insane from the guilt and grief and that bad things were yet to come in her story.

In Incendiary, the author shows his unique vision and I thought the novel was quite powerful, provocative and intelligent. I literally couldn’t put the book down. It’s definitely not a book to enjoy, but one that makes you think, stirs up your emotions and leaves you a little uneasy. This was my first book by Chris Cleave but I will definitely be reading more from this author. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Nov 3, 2017 |
very creepy book, i was somewhat sucked in but not really bc i was enjoying it just bc i wanted to know what happened ( )
  Megan.Aubrey.Truslow | May 18, 2017 |
Husband, child killed – letter to Bin Laden ( )
  keithgordonvernon | May 1, 2017 |
Happened upon this book while I was wandering around Strand Bookstore (aka Book Lover's Heaven)during a recent visit to NYC. I started this book on our flight back home and was blown away (no pun intended given the subject of this book); this book is the definition of unputdownable. Cleave was able to take a heartbreaking story and make it very real for a post 9/11 reader. Although this book is 8 years old, the message is still prescient given the recent bombing in Boston. Raw, harrowing, at times hilarious and very moving. Loved it. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Chris Cleave's first novel, Incendiary , the powerful story of a suicide bomb attack at a London soccer stadium, hit British bookstores the same day terrorist bombs splintered the city's morning rush hour, killing more than 50 people.
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... a most terrible fire broke out, which... not only wasted the adjacent parts, but also places very remote, with incredible noise and fury. - inscription on the Monument to the Great Fire of London, north side
For Louis and Clemence
First words
Dear Osama, they want you dead or alive so the terror will stop. Well I wouldn't know about that I mean rock 'n' roll didn't stop when Elvis died on the khazi it just got worse. Next thing you know there was Sonny & Cher and Dexys Midnight Runners. I'll come to them later. My point is it's easier to start these things than to finish them. I suppose you thought of that did you?
London is a city built on the wreckage of itself Osama. It's had more comebacks than The Evil Dead. It's been flattened by storms and flooded out and rotted with plague. Londoners just took a deep breath and put the kettle on. Then the whole thing burned down. Every last stick of it. I remember my mum took me to see the Monument to the Great Fire. London burned WITH INCREDIBLE NOISE AND FURY is what the monument has written on it. People thought it was the end of the world. But Londoners got up the next day and the world hadn't ended so they rebuilt the city in 3 years stronger and taller. Even Hitler couldn't finish us though he set the whole of the East End on fire.
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After her four-year-old son and husband are killed in a massive suicide bomb attack, a distraught woman turns her grief into resolve and sets out to protect her city and world from terrorists.
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