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Incendiary Paperback – 13 Aug 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (13 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340998482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340998489
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Cleave's debut novel INCENDIARY was a prize-winner and international bestseller, published in 20 countries.
Inspired by his early childhood in West Africa, THE OTHER HAND is his second novel. He is married with two children, and lives in Kingston-upon-Thames. He keeps a website at and can be found on

Product Description


Stunning... a haunting work of art. (Newsweek)

Chris Cleave has the ability to create moving and beautiful scenes within a terrifying backdrop. I couldn't put it down; it's subversive, thought-provoking and well-written. (Observer, Books of the Year)

Richly sardonic and often disarmingly poignant... How can one fail to be impressed and moved? (Guardian)

Cleave's heroine is by turns funny, sad, flawed, sympathetic, both damaged and indomitable, and triumphantly convincing. (Sunday Telegraph)

Stunning (New York Times AND International Herald Tribune AND Bookmarks Magazine)

This is a compulsive read, sure to stir the dust (CITY AM)

Searing.. poignant and compelling.. Utterly believable and mesmerizing (Newsday)

Dark, tense and undeniably provocative (Metro)

Hilariously sympathetic and convincing (San Francisco Chronicle)

Mesmerizing (Washington Post)

Book Description

The extraordinary first novel from the author of THE OTHER HAND

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Barton Keyes on 26 July 2005
Format: Paperback
Even without the dreadful coincidence lent by its publication day and the London atrocities occurring together, Incendiary is a truly powerful book.
Using jauntily naive language from a female central character Cleaver has written a book that is both laugh-out-loud funny, deeply unsettling and terribly sad. The book takes the form of a long letter to Osama Bin Laden written by a woman whose "chaps" -- her policeman husband and four year old son -- were incinerated in a terrorist attack on a London football stadium. The letter recounts her experiences after the deaths and her descent into the madness brought about by her grief. Without her chaps she has no real reason to live -- and certainly no reason to remain sane in a world going steadily mad all by itself.
The terrifying, sad story is woven around with a descant of humour, some sharp one-liners, bitingly accurate perceptions and gripping story-telling. Using the device of an uneducated but very intelligent woman as his narrator allows Cleave to write some wonderful descriptions of people that use simile and metaphor to great effect, producing really great writing that delights with its accuracy and perceptiveness. Very, very clever; very very good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 28 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am so torn with regards to this book, that in a way I would like to write 2 reviews. In some ways I think the book is brilliant. In others it is frankly terrible and more than a little distasteful.

The book is extremely gripping and I was never bored while reading it, not for a second. The style is gripping and original, with a funny and original central voice. The author has a vivid attention to detail, painting scenes with simplistic but striking details. It is also very touching at times, especially towards the beginning.

However, I would take issue with the morals of the main character, and the implication that they are typical of working class mothers. In particular, she leaves her little boy alone in the house, to go to the pub where she subsequently cheats on her husband. This alone made me violently dislike her. That the author would like us to view her as innocent and naive is distasteful in my opinion. She supposedly cared for her husband and little boy, but in actual fact she didn't seem to care at all, she just needed them, which is a different thing. The author tried to make it seem less seedy by emphasising the fact that she likes sex with strangers if it's 'gentle'; but it is seedy nonetheless. She is even having sex with a stranger at the moment her husband and son are blown up. I don't expect fictional characters to be perfect - in fact it would be extremely annoying if they were - but I expect them to have at least some redeeming features if I am to care what happens to them. This main character is a neglectful mother and wife, she is needy and selfish and seemingly obsessed with sex, even while she is grieving.

I would also say the book is unrealistic in a number of ways.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marla Singer on 6 Dec 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like many others, I am in two minds about this book.

It's about a woman that loses her husband and son in a terrorist event at a football game and subsequently develops post traumatic stress disorder, with a few twists and turns that don't usually happen to the average griever thrown in for good measure.

I didn't tire of the story and read it in a couple of sittings. However this could have been because I felt like I was careening through the text at a rate of knots due to the lack of commas put in by the author. I can only infer that this was one of his clever devices used to remind us that the main character was working class, as well as reminding us a few times that she likes to cook breaded chicken products, and say "on account of" a lot. I felt ambivalent towards her; she was clearly intended to be complex - simple and straightforward, yet worldly wise. This could have been explored more, rather than tritely alluding to a sexual abuse incident by one of mum's boyfriends when she was a teen - the layers needed to be built up more.

I found Jasper and Petra to be very black and white characters; it was difficult to reconcile their actions as they were either being extremely pleasant, or extremely awful.

With that being said, there were things that Cleave did well. I found his descriptions of the disasters vivid, and thought that he did a good job of conveying the grief of a mother, and her decline after the post traumatic stress disorder set in.

There are books that are far worse than this, the author has potential but perhaps should not write out of his comfort zone in future. An easy read for a long journey or holiday - if you don't mind depressing subject matter.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Feb 2006
Format: Paperback
Incendiary is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. Daring, provocative and sometimes heartbreaking, Cleave's narrator had me gripped from beginning to end. Cleverly told and often uproariously funny, this multi-layered story reveals itself as an impassioned denouncement of terrorism, and a warning that our emotional responses to terrorism risk destroying our own way of life. Like the issue of terrorism itself, this is a complex and divisive book, and people will either love it or hate it. Some people won't get it at all. Read it, and decide for yourself. You won't be wasting your time. I was up till the small hours reading Incendiary - it's that compelling.
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