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An al-Qaeda bomb attack on a London soccer match provides the tragicomic donnée of former Daily Telegraph journalist Cleave's impressive multilayered debut: a novel-length letter from an enraged mother to Osama bin Laden. Living hand to mouth in London's East End, the unnamed mother's life is shattered when her policeman husband (part of a bomb disposal unit) and four-year-old son are killed in the stadium stands. Complicating matters: our narrator witnesses the event on TV, while in the throes of passion with her lover, journalist Jasper Black. The full story of that day comes out piecemeal, among rants and ruminations, complete with the widow's shell-shocked sifting of the stadium's human carnage. London goes on high terror alert; the narrator downs Valium and gin and clutches her son's stuffed rabbit. After a suicide attempt, she finds solace with married police superintendent Terrence Butcher and in volunteer work. When the bomb scares escalate, actions by Jasper and his girlfriend Petra become the widow's undoing. The whole is nicely done, as the protagonist's headlong sentences mimic intelligent illiteracy with accuracy, and her despairingly acidic responses to events—and media versions of them—ring true. But the working-class London slang permeates the book to a distracting degree.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Winner of the 2006 Somerset Maugham Award
“An audacious, provocative voice. Incendiary is stunning in its portrayal of a city living with terror.”
—The New York Times
“Stunning. . . . A harrowing and sharply written account of urban panic and the hallucinatory effects of shock.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Read Incendiary. And I mean it. Read it. It is outrageous, infuriating, heartbreaking, terrifying and very, very important.”
“Cleave’s narrator is one of the strongest, most convincing personalities to grace the pages of literature in years. . . [He] has achieved something magical, creating a character who lives on long after the last page has been read.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“Hilariously sympathetic. . . . Cleave has achieved something rare: a black comedy about the war on terrorism and terrorism itself. [Incendiary] will break your heart and remind you how, in the face of the uncontrollable and the inexplicable, humor can allow one to survive.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“A poignant and compelling novel. . . utterly believable and mesmerizing. . . . Incendiary works not only as a furiously taut evocation of grieving, unhinged mother-love but as a sly political cautionary tale.”
“So timely it stings.”
—The Independent (UK)
“A haunting work of art.”