Read Incendiary by Chris Cleave Online


When a massive suicide bomb explodes at a London soccer match a woman loses both her four-year-old son and her husband. But the bombing is only the beginning. In a voice alive with grief, compassion, and startling humor, Incendiary is a stunning debut of one ordinary life blown apart by terror....

Title : Incendiary
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781400096688
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 239 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Incendiary Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2018-12-01 19:47

    There are several major elements to Incendiary, the wonderful book Chris Cleave wrote well before he became known for Little Bee. First a tough, working-class, London mom loses her bomb-squad husband and four-year-old son when terrorists bomb a packed soccer stadium, suffering injuries herself in attempting to find them immediately after the event. The unnamed narrator has to decide whether life is worth living. Her grief, and PTSD is manifest in hallucinations. She sees her dead son with increasing frequency and clarity as the story progresses. Chris Cleave - from The TelegraphHer life is complicated. She sees a well-to-do, but very confused and conflicted journalist who is smitten with her, then later a high-ranking cop with whom she works. She suffers an identity crisis, allowing herself to be re-shaped by others, trying on personae in attempting to figure out who she is after the trauma.Second, Cleave wrote this novel in a six-week marathon after the 2004 Madrid bombings, but before the 2005 bombings in London. Part of what he presents is his vision of how the UK might respond if faced with a major terrorist attack. We can look back from 2011 to see what he might have missed and what he got right.It’s an ugly war and there’s no honour in it. But we will win because we have to. It’s a war we win by ditching our principles. By interning people who are high risk. By listening to private phone calls.The narrator offers counterpoints with sympathy for the Muslims she knows, hard-working people like herself, a danger to no one. Third is Cleave’s portrayal of class in Britain. The book is filled with the tension of working-class people in almost alien worlds alongside their own. Examples aboundTessa comes with rather a lot of baggage. Breeding. Family money. The people who have it aren’t like you and me. They’ll be polite enough to you. But try to get too close and they’ll put back the distance. Try to step inside their circle and they’ll close ranks. Us and them are not the same species. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Don’t ever get involved with the upper classes.While Cleave shines a bright light on class differences, he takes pains not to idealize anyone. London, post attack, puts up barrage balloons around the city, familiar from World War II, useful for forcing incoming aircraft to higher altitudes, their steel cables a disincentive to low-level flight. The balloons in this story bear the images of people lost in what is called the May Day attack.They hadn’t chosen very nice people for the balloons round Hyde Park anyway. The faces were mostly fat blokes who looked like they could tuck the pints away. They were the sort of blokes who’d call each other by nicknames like oi Baz and oi Todger, and you could imagine them pinching your bum at a New Year’s Eve party. Saying How about it darling? It was funny seeing those dead fat blokes 500 feet up in the air saving us from kamikazes. It might have been the first decent thing they’d done in their lives most of them.There is a shortage of punctuation in the novel. It enhances Cleave’s characterization of his narrator as a less than well-educated person. He even notes it, with a nod and a wink, when she is looking at a job possibility with the police. You might need to type up incident reports from time to time. They read like SUSPECT WAS APPREHENDED AT 0630 WIELDING A SHARPENED SPOON. That stuff needs commas like Covent Garden needs a gardener. Anyway we’re not writing literature here. We’re trying to stop people bombing people.The story takes place over the course of a year, with book sections for each of the seasons, as the narrator comes through a full cycle of change to arrive where she does at the end. The format is of a sort of epistolary novel. The narrator does not actually write letters to Osama bin Laden, but speaks as if she were, addressing him throughout her tale, decrying his actions, particularly sharing her pain at the loss of her son.This is a very engaging story. I was hooked from the first, and read it quite fast. I truly felt for this wounded mother. How would I feel if my mate and one or all of my children had been taken away so harshly? There are times in the book when one would be well-advised to keep the Kleenex handy. And there are others when Cleave gives us reason to laugh out loud. I have one significant gripe with the book. I thought Cleave went way too far with his ending. It seemed forced to me. But that aside, the journey, which makes up the bulk here, is very well worth the time. =============================EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

  • Jeanette
    2018-12-05 18:36

    UGH!! This is horrible! Trying to read it is like banging your head against a concrete pillar. You should only do it for the feeling of relief when you finally decide to stop. I read about 30 pages and I can't take any more. The narrator is an obsessive---the kind who alphabetizes everything in her kitchen cupboards and freezer...and then goes one level deeper and alphabetizes within the alphabetization! This entire "Dear Osama" story is written in that obsessive fashion. Annoying details repeated ad nauseum. Her husband and son were killed in a London terrorist attack, and she has to tell you again and again that her son was "4 years and 3 months old." Like that...The East End slang totally lost me. Include a glossary, for pity's sake. I don't want to jump up and visit urban dictionary every time I read something like "on the khazi." WTF? I now know that "khazi" is British slang for toilet. That's what I got from the book. If you liked Little Bee, don't assume you'll like Incendiary. Thass all ah'm sayin'.

  • Lance Greenfield
    2018-11-30 17:38

    Original, entertaining, authentic and believable An East End [of London:] woman decides to write a letter to Osama bin Laden after a team of his suicide bombers wreck her life by indiscriminately blowing up the crowd at a football match, killing both her husband and her four-and-a-quarter year-old son, along with over a thousand other football fans.The letter is written, mainly in the authentic language of an East End gal, but with snippets of people from other worlds. The grammar and punctuation is appaling, but it is totally in context. She relates, to Osama, all of the events and all of her feelings from immediately before the atrocity to many months afterwards. There is a lot of humour interspersed throughout the tragedy. One of the funniest passages that I have read recently will not spoil your enjoyment of this book.It didn’t smell posh in Harvey Nichols it smelled of all the different perfumes in the world very strong and mixed up together. It felt like having your throat scraped. I took my boy into John Lewis once and it smelled just like that in the perfume section. Yuk Mummy he said. It smells nice and nasty all at once. It smells of angels' feet.Hilarious!I can understand why some people do not like this style of writing and cannot get into the book at all. This is a book that you will either love or hate. It is either one star or five stars plus plus. I cannot tell what it will be like for you, but I would recommend that you give it a chance. For me, it was one of the best books that I read in 2009.

  • Robert Beveridge
    2018-11-10 22:39

    Chris Cleave, Incendiary (Knopf, 2005)Dear Osama,With these two words, Chris Cleave kicks off his powerful novel Incendiary, and you know it's not going to be something you've seen before. And indeed it is not. The entire thing is written by the unnamed protagonist in a letter to Osama bin-Laden after al-Qaeda bombed a stadium during a big match, taking the lives of her husband and son. She tries to make a go of life afterwards, but while she never explicitly asks the question, it's embedded in every word: how does one regain one's own sanity when the entire world has gone crazy?The first, and perhaps biggest, thing to note here is that, as it's written as a letter, the entire book is in the voice of the protagonist, who is not terribly well-educated and eschews the use of commas. Twenty-five pages into this book, I was sure I was going to offer it up as a sacrifice to the gods of reading by lighting it on fire and tossing it into a random trash can, but I got used to the narrative style pretty quickly after that. Once you've fallen into the rhythm of the prose, the story itself is gripping-- our narrator is trying to get on with her life, just as England is, and the two are often compared to one another between the lines as a measuring stick, making sure we've got the idea in the back of our heads that the end of the book is a given. (And Cleave doesn't fail us, though we don't get exactly what we think we're going to.) A startling, and excellent, piece of work, this. ****

  • M
    2018-11-15 19:44

    OK, Cleave. It's officially over for us. You are a man on a mission, a guy who tries to pass himself off as clever but is merely gimmicky, a man who attempts pathos and ends up mawkish. BLARGH. Here, in no particular order, are the things I can't stand in novels, in general, and applied to this one, in specific:1. Letters that magically, somehow, have perfectly remembered dialogues and long plot driven descriptions that no one would ever write.It's not only lazy but impossible to believe. The whole time I am reading I am distracted by the 'oh wait, right, this is a terror victim's letter to Osama (yank those heart strings! Yank yank!) so I better slap in the name Osama where it is least relevant so as to remind you folks at home that that is my gimmick! Smooth, Cleave.Which brings me to:2. Yanking heart strings novels.This falls into the category alongside Books About Kids With Cancer and Other Bad Diseases, Books About the Holocaust, and Books About Orphans. It's cheap, just like having a really long letter as your format. So of course how could I not feel for a woman who lost her son and husband to a senseless bombing, right? Except when the author tries REALLY REALLY hard to get you to feel that by employing all kinds of tricks. Also she was REALLY not likable. Which brings me to:3. Remembering that you need your characters to be multi dimensional so you add in some random not so ok behavior so you can pat yourself on the back.Said character has attitude, and not in a charming way. She represents the working class in London and you can all feel offended by this representation. Her smart mouth was annoying and her love for her family felt as forced as the times she did not feel that love, all the more dwarfed by the Big Catastrophe which brings me to:4. Books that Ride on the Coat Tails of Actual Tragedies so as to Beef Up Their Lousy Rendition of Same.Hello, Cleave? 9/11 called. It wants its sanctity back. He basically rips off the smoke and chaos of a real act of terror and attempts to draw upon that in his stupid football game bombing, and not only does it feel cheap and wrong, but he then turns this event (based on an actual event) into something resembling satire (ok yeah THAT'S a great idea) as in, "Oh we can't be having Muslims working, even the ones who aren't religious. Well we can have the cab drivers but not anyone who might fly a plane." It's hard to put it exactly but as I was reading the "unraveling of London" as based on NYC part, it kept feeling like the lady in The Help who really, really wanted you to see how wrong everyone else was by exaggerating everything. I am not saying Muslims didn't get a lot of unfair backlash but I am saying that truth needs to read as truth, not your agenda driven attempt at getting me to react to something.I read about as much of this as I could, and at that point it was not only offensive but actually ridiculous with characters who were over the top such that nothing could be taken seriously. MOVING ON.

  • Gigi
    2018-12-10 20:36

    wow. i buy the book at the miami airport and start reading at takeoff. fifteen minutes later, my mouth is literally hanging open with shock. a three hour flight to nyc feels like six seconds and i race home to finish the book that night. i read and loved little bee (chris cleave's 2008 novel) and i have been an ardent and faithful word-of-mouther for the last year, pushing it onto the bookshelves of anyone who will hear me out. i don't think love is the right word for my reaction to incendiary. temporary obsession is more apt. basically you meet the protagonist in a waking sleep and a few chapters later, you are hurled into a dark, painfully uncomfortable downward spiral. one that starts with a stunning description of terrorism, muggy infidelity, charred flesh and limbs that are blown apart in slo-motion and continues with a guilt that drowns you and a loneliness that picks through your dry bones. i won't go into the plot because it's already listed, but i will say that incendiary will make you hold your loved ones tight.

  • Jess
    2018-12-04 17:47

    After Little Bee, I had high hopes for Incendiary. Unfortunately, Chris Cleave left me disappointed. Unfortunately, Incendiary seems more like an outlandish dark daydream than anything real. For instance, she throws up on Prince William. Really? Really. I understand what Cleave was trying to do here, but no part of it seemed real. The entire time I thought I was reading some middle schooler's attempt to be a dark and gruesome author. With the middle schooler you pat him on the back, at least he's trying. But Cleave? How can I help but no roll my eyes. It wasn't believable. And in an age where terrorism is so real, this all just felt like some poorly feigned disaster. Besides for the story feeling incredibly fake, I also had a problem with the story's structure. This woman is drafting a note to Osama Bin Laden, and surely has never used a punctuation mark other than a period in her life. While some stories can benefit from a character's unique linguistic style, this was just distracting. And couldn't help but make me think- lazy.Now the overall concept was nice. Terrorism, loss, survival. I liked that aspect. I also really liked the character's guilt for the affair she was having while her family was dying- I wish that could have been played out more. I think this book failed at what it tried to be. The concept had potential, but its execution was terrible.

  • Sheila
    2018-11-15 18:45

    I loved Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, so when my husband learned that I was meeting a friend in a bookstore, he told me I should look for Cleave’s first book Indendiary and see if I’d like that too. So I looked.Pages of compliments to the author at the start of a book do tend to have a bad effect on me. By the time I’d found the first page of writing, my bookstore coffee was cold. I almost wrote the novel off as artsy and not my style but then I stopped and read again. And I was thoroughly hooked.The novel starts as a letter: “Dear Osama.” But the correspondent’s no great politician, no stop-at-nothing soldier or truth-telling journalist, not even priest or a cleric, but rather a very ordinary Londoner mourning her dead boy and telling her tale.And what a tale. Incendiary is haunting, mesmerizing even. Yet, despite its topic, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. When a neighbor in the high-class Wellington Estate tells the woman he thinks she’s “very real,” she responds that no-one’s ever said that before, probably because they thought it so “bleeding obvious.” But all the characters in this novel are heart-breakingly real, even Mr. Rabbit whose constant presence haunts and holds it together.Of course, I’m English. There are places and names that I know as I sink into my chair and into the tale. I’m comfortable. I recognize this voice. But suddenly that quiet world falls spectacularly and totally apart. The author goes where others might justifiably fear to tread and creates something powerfully terrifying and horribly plausible.Betrayal is such a simple word. We use it in so many ways. But one betrayal does not equal another, and Chris Cleave’s novel has a depth and honesty that leaves the reader crying, not just for the dead boy, but for all the hopes and dreams that die in everyday betrayals, and for a world that might well be all too real, but really can’t be trusted.Incendiary is a masterpiece, just like Little Bee, and highly recommended.

  • Ammara Abid
    2018-12-08 23:38

    One-sitting read!Very unique plot!A woman talking with Osama bin Ladin before & after the death of her husband and son and blaming him for the London attack but the reality was something else. She keep on discussing afterwards each event of her life with him. I have mixed feelings regarding this book. ahhh Amazing some parts while few things are repeatedly discussed which bored me. All & all very different and interesting book.

  • Jill
    2018-11-14 16:47

    Imagine that you’re a working class Cockney mother with a husband who detonates bombs and a young son who is four years and three months old. You stave off your anxieties about the uncertainty of your life through mindless sex encounters. Eventually, you meet a neighbor – a journalist named Jasper – and, while your husband and son are at a soccer game, you invite him to your flat. At the exact same time you are in the throes of sexual abandon, there’s a massive terrorist bomb attack at the London soccer stadium, vaporizing over one thousand people – your husband and son among them. How do you go on? How do you live with the remorse?Chris Cleave explores that question in an epistolary structure; the nameless woman writes a letter to Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the attack. The epistolary form is used with caution as a framing device (Nicole Krauss’s The Great House and Moshid Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist come to mind), because it is not easy to pull off. The reader is a fly-on-the-wall and can choose to connect with the narrator – or not. And if truth be known, Mr. Cleave is not entirely successful in his narrative control as the conceit of writing to Osama begins to wear thin.What he is successful with is developing a fragile persona – an obsessive woman who is gradually unraveling as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder and who is quickly spiraling downward. The anonymity of the character makes her everywoman, trying to survive in a post-terrorist world. The woman writes, “Before you bombed my boy Osama I always through an explosion was such a quick thing but now I know better. The flash is over very fast but the fire catches hold inside you and the noise never stops…I live in an inferno where you could shiver with cold Osama. This life is a deafening roar but listen. You could hear a pin drop.”The bombing and PSTD, though, is only the beginning. London is quickly transformed into a virtual occupied territory as the woman fights her own inward battles. She is drawn into a psychological maelstrom with Jasper and his fiancée, Petra, an upper-class fashion journalist who happens to resemble her closely. Indeed, Petra and the narrator may very well represent two parts of London, which is described as “a smiling liar his front teeth are very nice but you can smell his back teeth rotten and stinking.” Each cannot exist without the other. And so they enter a danse-a-deux of symbiosis and betrayal. Eventually, the novel veers toward a stunning denouement and an over-the-top ending.It’s extraordinary ambitious for a first-time novelist (this book was written before Chris Cleave’s more well-known Little Bee) and sometimes the prose comes across as rather self-congratulatory or forced. Mr. Cleave’s intention, it seems, is to portray a decadent Western society that struggles to break free of its class distinctions – without success, setting itself up as something to tear down. Yet at the core of the novel, there is an emotional void. The characters are not quite satirical, yet not quite real. And as a result of the epistolary form, we, as readers, are held at arm’s length, not quite embracing them.This often disturbing, sometimes macabre novel has its own intriguing history. The morning after its initial launch party, in July 0f 2005, three suicide bombers detonated their devices in the London Underground. The book tour was shelves and the novel was temporarily withdrawn from sale by many UK retailers. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. And in Chris Cleave’s world, fiction is very strange indeed. (2.5)

  • Marialyce
    2018-12-09 23:55

    Wow, just wow! This book just blew me away literally. It was one of those books that you love to hate but the realism, the pathos, the fear is brought out on every single page. Perhaps this book had such an impact because I am a native New Yorker who lived and worked a mere fifteen miles away from ground zero. I remember the panic, the sorrow, the intense feeling of both grief and despair as if that event occurred yesterday.The author has revived that feeling of intense loss and the way a mind can operate after such a loss. He has made it real again, though he does change the location, he does not change the way humanity reacts to the taking of innocent lives. Eerily true to life this book was released on the same day of the London bombings. I see many have hated this book. I think it is a scary, scary book, one that smacks the reader right in the headlights with the realism that terrorism in all its forms makes us into the kind of humans we were never destined to be, it causes women to lose husbands and sons, men to lose mothers and wives, and children, poor children to lose their innocence.While to conclusion of the book is unnerving, the understanding that there might be one sliver of goodness in a terrorist's heart may be its most redeeming quality. Can we ever forget or forgive those who have wantonly killed innocents because of their cause? Can the Bin Ladens of the world ever be more than the most despised people by those whose lives they have taken away? Can a mother ever forget this loss of her child? Can we as humans ever go beyond hate?

  • Alja Katuin
    2018-12-03 23:41

    Wat een hel om dit te lezen.. Weinig gebruik van leestekens, waardoor je soms 10 keer over een zin heen moet. Het had zo'n interessant verhaal kunnen zijn, maar dit is er eentje waarbij men niet er uit haalt wat er in zit. Niet lezen, zonde van je tijd.

  • Lénia
    2018-11-11 23:54

    Depois de ter lido "Pequena Abelha" e "Menina de Ouro" e de ter adorado os dois, faltava-me ler "Incendiário", que é o primeiro romance do autor. Logo no início estranhei: a ausência de vírgulas foi coisa a que tive que me habituar, mas consegui fazê-lo muito rapidamente. Na verdade, sendo este livro uma carta escrita pela narradora a Osama Bin Laden, ele está escrito na linguagem que ela utiliza e não na linguagem que o autor utiliza. Só por isso, já merece ovação de pé, porque nem sempre é fácil abandonarmo-nos daquilo que escrevemos. Chris Cleave faz isso com magistral talento.Este livro conta a história de uma mulher que perdeu o marido e o filho num ataque bombista da Al Qaeda. Vamos conhecendo a história deles à medida que ela escreve a carta a Bin Laden. Vamos também conhecendo a fundo esta mulher, as suas qualidades, as suas fraquezas, as suas falhas. Dei por mim a conseguir ouvi-la falar. Senti uma empatia enorme com este mulher que não tem nada que ver com o estereótipo da heroína a quem é arrancada a vida que tinha. Ela é uma mulher de carne e osso, real, com uma humanidade incrível. Até hoje, poucas foram as personagens de quem posso dizer o mesmo. Curiosamente, quase todas as que conheço assim saíram da "pena" de Chris Cleave.Li este livro de um fôlego (demorei dois serões a lê-lo). Não consegui largá-lo, colou-se a mim sem me dar escapatória. Queria mesmo saber o que tinha acontecido, como é que ela sobreviveu àquelas duas pessoas que eram o centro do seu mundo. E, à medida que o livro avança, vamos percebendo que a dor continua a crescer, que o sufoco aumenta, que o cerco se aperta. Para mim, é um livro a revisitar de vez em quando. Imperdível...

  • Carmen
    2018-12-01 16:49

    This book is amazing. I would tell you all about it but I don't want to ruin anything for you.The whole book is written as a letter to Osama from a woman whose husband and son were killed in a huge London bombing in which over 1,000 people died. They call it May Day (read: 9/11). If you think this sounds really maudlin - it isn't. It is sad, funny, real, true, and breathtaking. This is not some sob-your-heart-out dime novel. It's a deep, brutal, personal look at human nature and tragedy.The woman is flawed. She's not some perfect grieving widow and mother. Everyone in the book is flawed - and therefore three-dimensional and real. My heart was bleeding not only for her but for all the messed-up, suffering characters in this book who are just trying to get through life day by day. This book hits you where it hurts. It grabs you and doesn't let go.It's worth mentioning that there was no disconnect for me re: a male writing from a female's perspective. Cleave did a great job of getting inside a female mind and I had no problems believing it. Points to Cleave for that."You've hurt London Osama but you haven't finished it you never will. London's like me it's too piss poor and ignorant to know when it's finished. That morning when I looked at the sun rising through the docklands I knew it for sure. I am London Osama I am the whole world. Murder me with your bombs you poor lonely sod I will only build myself again and stronger. I am too stupid to know better I am a woman built on the wreckage of myself."

  • Rachelfm
    2018-12-02 22:41

    Chris Cleave creates such memorable, credible characters with absolutely unique voices. The admittedly imperfect mother narrating this work in her singular, working-class, comma-phobic London voice grabs you by the gut. I didn't come up for air while reading this book. A fictional but eerily realistic terror attack rips through London and the life of one small family. The surviving mother writes a year-long letter to Osama bin Laden, addressing her anger, her loss, and her reactions (rational, intoxicated, or otherwise) as she watches her city become a high-surveillance police state and she tries to deal with a bottomless crater in her heart. There is dark humor and a masterly use of cultural touchstones and daily details that really transport the reader to this average life. The smell of the flat, the shopping for treats for a child, a boy's handmade bedroom are vivid against the explosive backdrop of this tragedy were almost too vivid and too poignant and I found myself unable to actually keep reading if my kids were in the room playing. The description of the sleeping boy smelling of tigers and angels. One of the things I really appreciated about this book and felt was most eye-opening was how much time Cleave spent exploring the class divide, and how the winners continue to win, even in a terror attack. There was great tension between the reactions of those personally benefitting from the brave new world and those grieving the old one.Chris Cleave came to our branch library in Seattle for a talk I attended this spring and he talked about how he wanted his novels to be a jumping-off place for discussion about the hard questions in our lives today: freedom vs. security, retribution, and the value of a life. His first novel certainly accomplishes this. Because the book was released simultaneously with the London bombings, the work was too uncomfortably raw and the fiction was eclipsed by reality. Approaching the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I found this struck the right tone for me to really reflect, remember, and develop a new empathy for those who have lost loved ones to terrorism.

  • Ken Deshaies
    2018-12-05 16:43

    "Incendiary" is one of the best books I've read - ever. I also read Cleave's "Little Bee", as engaging a book as you want to pick up. However, this is different, both in style and content. Told through the voice of a lower class woman in London who is writing a letter to Osama Bin Laden after her husband and son were killed (along with hundreds of others) in an al-Qaeda suicide bomb attack at a soccer match. At the very moment of the explosion, the woman is not only having sex on her living room sofa with a local reporter she'd only recently met, but was also watching the match on TV and saw the explosion happen. Her successes and failures at dealing with that tragedy are visceral and real. You are inside her head always, and can easily sympathize with her reactions to situations. Cleave's ability to speak as a woman is extraordinary and makes even the male reader understand her reactions. Of course, she not only has to deal with the death of her two family members, but also with severe living restrictions put in place by the British and London governments following the attack. Just as the specter of 9-11 in America changed how we live in many ways, terrorism in London has had a similar, but perhaps more drastic affect on life there. It's truly a remarkable book, and I strongly encourage you to get it today. You won't be disappointed.

  • Ele Munjeli
    2018-11-14 22:50

    This book took so much balls to write: the main character is woman, writing about motherhood, and wifehood, yet it was written by a man. The protagonist is working class; but the author graduated from Oxford. Above all, it's an exploration of a hideous crime, and the personal losses consequent, though this event never happened. The strength of the book lies in its enormous imagination. London after May Day is achingly detailed, Orwellian, but authentic due to intimate observation with the absurd politics of modern anti-terrorism. I lagged to read it, thinking I wasn't ever really in the mood for the topic; but once I picked it up, I gobbled it down in a day. Courage is absurd, and admirable even when it lodges in desperation and madness. The book entertained me, in spite of the violent and panicked imagery, because it relied on the only weapons effective against fear: understanding, creative thought, and love.

  • Bronwen
    2018-11-10 16:45

    A gripping story. I don't know how Chris Cleave gets inside women's heads so well. A lot of WOMEN don't do it this well. Also shows a deep understanding of the lives and passions of the working class.Side note: Cleave has a blog that is very good. No surprise.

  • Alex Csicsek
    2018-12-08 22:51

    How would London respond when faced with truly genuine fear? Written before the horrific events of 7/7, author Chris Cleave paints a dystopian picture of London as we know it in the aftermath of a horrific al-Qeada bombing where 1000 men, women, and children were blown to bits as they enjoyed a day out at an Arsenal match. The story is told through the eyes of an average working class East End woman who loses her husband and son in the attack. Incendiary is a profound story of unbearable loss, and the sensitive yet unsoppy portrayal of a woman who loses her son in such conditions is a magnificent achievement in itself. But what I found most engaging was how the character navigates her way through the remade London which emerges from the ashes of the attack. It's a bleak London where life carries on but only under a debilitating blanket of fear - and it's all the more bleak because it rings so very true.This book imagines how both the government and the public would respond to such a devastating attack. The scenario is one of lock-down, in which the government loses all trust in the public and people have no faith in one another. Some of the Orwellian government measures do seem a bit far-festched, particuarly internment of Muslims, but others like increased surveillance and curfews, are not just within the realm of possibility but have actually been implemented by this and the previous government.The most disturbing aspect is the treatment of people by one another. Yes, there is an element of stiff upper lip, but lips become so stiff that mouths aren't used to talk with others. Most people retreat into isolated lives carried out alone or with families in flats, experiencing the outside world only through television.There is an amazing scene near the end when, faced with the threat of another imminent attack, 'the panic' takes hold. It is a slow descent into utter chaos, where people not only ignore pleas for help from their fellow Londoners but have no qualms about pushing others out of the way to save themselves. It shows what happens when the slow-burning, pent-up fear of life under the threat of terrorism suddenly erupts, and it's not a pretty sight.Cleave is right: today's Brits are not the self-same people who, faced with a blitz of aerial bombardment in the second world war, kept calm and carried on. 70 years of convenience, of cheap fatty foods and evening spent relaxing on sofas in front of mindless television, have done much to diminish that. One factor is the early disintegration of genuine communities, where neighbours are only people who happen to live near one another as opposed to united people making their lives together in a shared space. Mid-20th century Britain was a tough, sturdy nation - that strength has melted away into fat, and it's a depressing thought how this new sort of nation would respond under similar threat.That's what makes Cleave's book such a fantastic read: it demonstrates a deep and intimate understanding of modern Britain, and shows how that character would respond under extreme circumstances.Beyond the bounds of the book, however, are glimmers of a less depressing interpretation. When a real terrorist attack hit London (coincidentally on the same day Incendiary was published), although government pushed ahead with its programme to dismantle civil liberties, the people themselves did not respond with the lock-down mentality Cleave portrays. And when London descended into riots last summer, the real crowds on the streets - the true majority in every sense of the meaning - were those who came out afterwards with brooms and bins, determined to clean up their streets and reclaim their communities. Cleave has put his finger on a very real strain of the British character, but it's not the only real strain, and there is reason to believe the dystopian London of distrust and fear he paints does not lurk beneath the surface after all.Let's just hope we never have to find out.

  • Pat Herndon
    2018-11-30 21:43

    I listened to the audiobook. The audiobook performance was superb, with the perfect reader to perform the material. I am sure that her reading enhanced my perception of the book...but. But, this plot line had some strange flaws in what I would otherwise describe as an excellent story. I read Little Bee and thought that it was an amazing work. Then I read Gold and thought, Chris Cleave does not understand female friendship. I was very pleased that this book was moving at an excellent pace..great setting, compelling descriptions of raw emotion, and a superb sense of time and place. But, Cleave soon delved into the subject of female friendship and bonding. I felt as though Chris Cleave had gone bonkers again, pulling the plot with him. The relationship that the two female characters develop is absurd. The circumstances under which they first meet defies any logic based on the characters themselves. Their contrived friendship had to occur some way for the plot to advance as it did, but couldn't the author have come up with a more plausible reason for them to be acquainted? Except for that matter, which was huge and very distracting to me, the book was excellent. I will continue to seek work by Chris Cleave.

  • Laura
    2018-12-08 15:37

    I hate when I read a book that has an engaging protagonist, a compelling story, and an intriguing location, along with some awesome action and the author keeps you reading, rooting for the narrator and then....he RUINS it ALL during the last twenty pages. I won't do a spoiler alert by telling you HOW he wrecks it. All I will say is I only recommend the first 214 pages of the 237 page book. After that the whole things gets shot to hell. the story derails, crashes, burns, and just stinks.I like the narrator, even though she makes some dumb choices. But she has had some bad things happen to her, so she is forgiven for most of her foibles.The concept is original; the narrator writes her tale to Osama bin laden after a terrorist bombing in London.The writing is crisp and readable, until it sputters and turns to ash after page 215.(I did get a little tired of the repeated use of the ord 'incendiary. we GET it. The book is about incendiaries...)I had planned to give this book high ratings until Cleave KILLED THE ENDING with melodramatic crap and insanity.

  • Brittany
    2018-12-11 15:39

    Cleave blew me away with his recent novel, Little Bee. I was excited to read the older Incendiary, yet I was deeply disappointed and disgusted. Yes, I finished the entire novel but only because I kept hoping that it was going to turn around and improve. It did not. With a promising beginning, I was immediately intrigued with the heroine of the story writing a letter to Osama Bin Laden blaming him for the deaths of her husband and son in a terrorist attack at a soccer match. However, as it went on, I became less and less thrilled with this woman who was cheating on her husband while he was being killed and then loses her grip on reality and life. This was the biggest sob story I have ever read with the most ridciulous characters and scenarios... I cannot begin to describe, and I won't. All I can do is urge other readers to not even try with this one. I wasted a a couple weeks on this... not because I'm a slow reader but because it was so miserable to read. Cleaves, I was really let down.

  • Holly
    2018-11-28 23:30

    This book has mixed reviews and I can't imagine why. Some people didn't like the author's choice to leave out commas, even though this is part of the main character's personality. However, I listened to the audio version and the reader was tailor made for the part. I really thought Chris Cleave did a magnificent job of imagining the craziness involved in a terror attack and the aftershock. He nailed it so well for me that I had to look up the storyline details to see if it was based on a true story...Nope...all in his imagination. I very much liked Little Bee too. These are definitely not fluff books and unfortunately some readers give them bad reviews based on the heaviness of the subject matter which I feel is unfair. It's like downgrading a children's book for being too simplistic. Or maybe a war novel because it's got violence and death. If readers can't handle books like these they should stick to Young Adult, romance, or Chick Lit. TORCH

  • Niklas
    2018-11-30 16:30

    Ich hoffe schlichtweg, dass das englische Original eine bessere Sprache bietet. Im Deutschen ist es jedenfalls recht vulgär/einfach. Auf der einen Seite sollte es so sein, um eine bessere Stimmung aufzubauen, auf der anderen Seite wird maßlos übertrieben.Was sehr schade ist, ist dass der Autor wirklich gute Ideen und Ansätze hat, aber niemals in die Tiefe geht. Man hofft immer, dass noch mehr kommt. Die Geschichte handelt von einer Frau, die bei einem Anschlag ihre Familie verliert. Und das ist genau das, was grundsätzlich in unseren Medien zu kurz kommt. Es gibt zwar die Meldung, wie viele Menschen vermisst werden oder getötet wurden, aber wie geht es den überlebenden Angehörigen? Hat man sich vorher mit seinem Freund noch gestritten? Wie geht das Leben überhaupt weiter? Und während die Allgemeinheit nach ein paar Wochen/Monaten alles vergessen hat, kann man selbst es eben niemals vergessen.Wie gesagt, gute Ansätze, schlechte Umsetzung.

  • Camille
    2018-11-25 20:28

    I don't know what I was expecting but what I got wasn't it. This was such a deeply moving and sad story about what happens when a life falls apart. While this is one woman's story, it shows just how fragile human beings are and just how self absorbed we can be. I just realized that I just finished a book and the main character's name was never mentioned. I spent over 200 pages feeling sorry for and being appalled by the life of this woman and wasn't even bothered that I didn't know her name. Wow.

  • Jeff
    2018-11-23 17:48

    What a book to read for someone who makes their living in the homeland security industry. "Incendiary" follows a widow following her husband's and son's death from a terrorist attack on London. Not only is it an insightful statement on an individual's grief for her family and nation, but it is also a poignant statement on that nation's grief. In many ways, we can look at the narrator's descent into madness as understandable, given her extreme losses. England, however, is made out like a just-chastised dog, tail between the legs and sulking in the corner. How does the country react? By growing mean and incapable of trusting others.But enough about that..."Incendiary" forces the reader to face questions that all of us should face in a post-9/11 world (though many of us can't bear the thought of doing so). Where is the line between civil liberties and security? Where is the appropriate threshold whereupon secrecy becomes necessary? Does force or resilience most-effectively deter terrorists?Perhaps the book's greatest success is how it explores what happens to "regular" folks in the aftermath of national tragedies. Too often we read about how our politicians are affected, how the families of the NYC firefighters were affected. TheNew York Timeslists Guliani's and Bush's accounts as "best sellers". As mentioned, homeland security is a daily reality for me and I am afforded the opportunity to talk with a number of people about their emotions and their ideas about how to fight terrorism. One would be surprised at how many people teeter on madness when they really let themselvesfeelterrorism.The book explores a number of relevant social issues without being "preachy". It dissects how class stratification has manifested itself in modern, western civilizations. It touches on ethics in law enforcement and intelligence gathering. It ends with a scathing statement as to how our media can steal what little sanity many have left. Chris Cleave's genius lies in not naming the narrator; she is us.

  • Karen Germain
    2018-11-21 23:28

    Having just finished Chris Cleave's second novel and loving it, I immediately went out to buy his first novel, "Incendiary." Overall, I found parts of the story to be a bit over the top and messy, but I still enjoyed the story. It's face paced and impossible to put down.Although none of the characters is even remotely likeable, I still was still able to connect with them. This was the same case in his second novel, "Little Bee." Cleave has a way of making off putting characters, become accesible. While I never actually liked or respected any of them, I still felt a sadness for them. Cleaves write very sad, heartbroken characters who make terrible choices. Cleaves at his best when he is writing dialogue. I would absolutely love for him to write a play. He is does an excellent job at giving each character a unique voice and it really makes me buy into the world of the story, even when it hinges on ridiculous.Like in his second novel, Cleaves makes some bold observations on human nature. Even if you do not agree with his assertations, it's impossible to read this book without becoming engaged with the subject. This is a great book for a book group or other type of discussion. It's loaded with moral questions.

  • Alex Norcross
    2018-12-07 19:33

    After 130 pages I decided to call it quits on this book. While the idea of a woman writing to the terrorist who engineered the deaths of her husband and son is intriguing, I found the protagonist unrealistic given the intellectual and moral gravity that the plot entails. It is entirely possible to make a character such as an unfaithful wife seem sympathetic and interesting, but I think Cleave misses the mark in this regard. Like many other novels that begin with tragedies, we as readers are thrust into a situation that is immediately demanding of us; we are put in a place where we must and should feel for the characters, but since the loss comes so near the beginning we do not know the characters enough to be able to relate to them or care. Even in the pages following the terrorist attack, the protagonist fails to develop much depth. She and the other characters are one-dimensional types. Even the style of narration draws attention to this shallowness of character by placing in caps the kind of stereotype that character represents.I usually don't skip ahead to the last pages of books, but this time I did and now, knowing generally where the story ends, I do not see, nor do I want to see, how the protagonist of this work comes to her conclusion.

  • K
    2018-11-16 19:47

    "Incendiary" is a letter to Osama bin Laden written by a working class London woman who has lost her husband and son in a terror attack. In this confessional letter, the woman describes some of the events in her life prior to the attack as well as her interactions afterward. The nameless woman appears to unravel over the course of the book, as do many of the people around her and even the city of London itself.The book was powerful, intense and well-written. I liked the fact that the main character was morally ambiguous rather than being a martyred saint. Some of her behavior, though, made it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief as well as my judgment and I alternated between thinking, "Okay, in crazy times people do crazy things" and thinking, "Oh, give me a fat break!" But a lot of the book and its complexities were fascinating, and compensated for this.While I think I enjoyed Little Bee a bit more, this book had a lot of the same qualities and was a very provocative read.

  • Bookmarks Magazine
    2018-12-06 21:33

    An all-around stunning novel. Even if Incendiary hadn't eerily predicted the bombings on the London Tube (and hit British bookstores that same day), it would rank as one of this season's novels to be missed at your own peril (unless you're swearing by Michiko Kakutani, who deemed the book in poor taste). Cleave has mimicked the voice of a working-class woman with remarkable persuasiveness__though non-British readers may wallow in East End slang confusion. A formal journalist, he has brought an eye for detail and political commentary to his fiction. A little parody__and a little sex__deflect the novel's unbearable sobriety, if the narrator's affair belies credibility. Take that, Jonathan Safran Foer and Ian McEwan! Cleave's debut could be considered the finest post-9/11 terrorism novel yet. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.