Review: Incendiary by Chris Cleave

Incendiary by Chris Cleave

This is the third of four great books I am reviewing in my Late Spring Reads series.

This is an open letter to Osama Bin Laden from an unnamed Cockney narrator who becomes an indirect casualty of the terrorist bombing of an Arsenal football match, a game both her young son and husband were attending. She hears the explosion on the TV as she is in the middle of an adulterous encounter with a Daily Telegraph journalist, who was also supposed to be attending the game. The narrator demands that the journalist take her to the stadium where 1,000 football fans have been burnt to a crisp. She is injured and ends up in hospital, where she learns that the only thing left of her three-year-old son is his stuffed toy. The tragedy, however, binds the narrator and journalist into an odd relationship, which eventually includes his fashion writer girlfriend.

In the wake of this calamity, London is under strict curfew, Muslims endure open discrimination and harassment, and many Londoners are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which they ease with debauchery. Our narrator eventually becomes involved with a police officer from whom she learns that the tragedy could have been averted. Our narrator chooses to leak the tip to the press, which leads to her own demise and that of her journalist friends.

This is another powerful narrative about how tragedy affects everyone regardless of class and of the neurotic chaos that ensues. I liked this novel because it was taken from the perspective of a young working-class woman, who the author portrays respectfully.

As some of you may know, Chris Cleave is a columnist for the Guardian. Incendiary was his first novel.

Tomorrow's review will be of Going Down Swinging by Billie Livingston.

Other reviews:
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell 
Going Down Swinging by Billie Livingston
The Girl Without Anyone by Kelli Deeth
Drive-By Saviours by Chris Benjamin
Interview with Author Billie Livingston
Review: The Trouble with Marlene by Billie Livingston
Review: Greedy Little Eyes by Billie Livingston
Interview: Christy Ann Conlin Author of Dead Time
Review of Girls' History and Culture Reader: The Twentieth Century
Dead Time by Christy Ann Conlin
The Social Media Survival Guide by Deltina Hay
The Birth House by Ami McKay
The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
Unless by Carol Shields
Essex County by Jeff Lemire



Anonymous | May 26, 2011 at 12:12 AM

Hi Heather
Sorry if you get this post twice - I've never responded to a blog before and don't quite understand the profile etc. I really liked this book as well - and also another book by this author - Little Bee. I thought that the portrayal of the narrator was sympathetic and authentic. Shelley

Heather | May 26, 2011 at 6:36 AM

Hi Shelley! I've read wonderful things about Little Bee. I'll have to read that too. You're right the narrator was both sympathetic and authentic. Thanks for the comment. Heather

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