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Submergence [Hardcover]

J M Ledgard
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 14.14 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

21 July 2011

In a room with no windows on the eastern coast of Africa, an Englishman, James More, is held captive by jihadist fighters. Posing as a water engineer to spy on al-Qaeda activity in the area, he now faces extreme privation, mock executions and forced marches through arid Somali badlands. Thousands of miles away on the Greenland Sea, Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician, prepares for a dive to the ocean floor to determine the extent and forms of life in the deep.

Both are drawn back, in their thoughts, to the Christmas of the previous year, and to a French hotel on the Atlantic coast, where a chance encounter on the beach led to an intense and enduring romance, now stretching across continents. For James, a descendant of Thomas More, his mind escapes to utopias, and fragments of his life and learning before his incarceration, now haunting him. Danny is drawn back to mythical and scientific origins and to the ocean: immense and otherworldly, a comfort and a threat.

Submergence is a love story, a meditation on mortality, and a vivid portrayal of man's place on Earth. With it J. M. Ledgard proves himself a writer of large horizons and vast ambition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (21 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224091379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224091374
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 473,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.M. Ledgard was born in the Shetland Islands in 1968. He is a political and war correspondent for The Economist and a thinker on risk and technology in emerging economies. He lives and works in Africa.

Product Description


"A world-spanning spy story, a hyper-literary novel, Submergence succeeds, and is immensely pleasurable, because Ledgard's magnetic north is... such an uncanny, inhuman and deathly place. It is a point far below the familiar sea, at the very bottom of the ocean; it is the hadopelagic, the Hadal deep, from the Greek Hades, meaning unseen. This is where we consciousness-addicted human beings are heading as millennial gravity pulls us down. It will be a submergence. You will take your place in the boiling-hot fissures, among the teeming hordes of nameless micro-organisms that mimic no forms, because they are the foundation of all forms. Including, in some unfathomable way, the form of this wonderful novel."--Toby Litt, New Statesman

"From the icy depths of the Greenland Sea to the sweltering plains of a Somali Islamist training camp, Ledgard's masterful second novel is a beautifully crafted, rigorously researched, and deeply affecting love story."--Steve Bloomfield, Monocle

Book Description

The second novel by the author of the highly praised Giraffe.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where Angels Fear to Tread 28 Sep 2012
I'm in two minds about 'Submergence'. It is rich in imagery and ideas, and filled with sumptuous description, but I found it frustratingly incoherent. Broken up into small sections, some only a paragraph long, it ruminates on love, faith and existence. It marries science and philosophy, terrorism and exploration, but I found there was little to drive me to read on. Each section was interesting in isolation, but if I'd lost the book halfway through I would not have felt a desperate need to find out what happened to the novel's two protagonists.

The two central characters are spy and scientist. They meet in a French hotel, and are instantly attracted. Forced by circumstance they go their separate ways. One will be captured by terrorists, the other will travel into the depths of the ocean.

The narrative timeline is all over the place. Danny's (female scientist) is more or less linear but James's moves back in forth in time. The novel opens with his being held hostage, before returning to the two meeting in France. As James' captivity lengthens, his thoughts and recollections become more erratic and philosophical, which adds to the lack of coherence.

The descriptions though are incredible, and the thoughts and emotions portrayed intense. The sections set in the French hotel are so evocative, you can see the rooms, taste the food, and feel the cold. So real and wonderful did this hotel seem, I searched for it on the Internet. Sadly, I'm not sure it exists.

The two stories on the surface have little in common. One is about exploration and the excitement of discovery, the other a horrible tale of abuse and mistreatment. Yet Ledgard teases out similarities. Somalia is in the fertile crescent, the ocean bed contains the building blocks for life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars complex and beautiful 26 Dec 2011
By Tony B
Having read Legards extraordinary first novel, Giraffe, I was greatly looking forward to his second. Far from disappointing, Submergence is written with an intelligence and emotional warmth which surpasses the earlier book. Part love story, part hostage drama, this book takes the reader to places both uncomfortable and moving. I read it on one sitting, and found myself wanting to start it again from the beginning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex and topical 29 Nov 2011
By Sarah
Beautifully written with wonderful complexity, Submergence is the sort of book that the Booker used to be about before they dumbed it down. The switching between different time points adds another dimension to the story and allows the author to draw parallels between the action of the 2 protagonists. It is a book which needs concentration but it deserves it. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep 14 Nov 2011
it's a wonderful book. commits what for me is normally the cardinal sin of moving between different plotlines, but here it works because the writers does it so elegantly and you're so interested in them all and they're so marvellously connnected. unlike other reviewers here, i couldn't read this quickly. i found some of the passages so moving and disturbing that i couldn't hurry on. also the writing is so dense. dense in the very positive sense that it carries a lot, is always elegant and doesn't take short cuts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BUY IT 13 Nov 2011
By pq
LOVED IT, absolutely tore through it, it's a gripping NOW story, that gives incredible insight, detail, and colour into each area it touches, including jihadist fighters, a 'real' spy, kidnapping, captivity, marine biology, biomathematics, & deep sea trenches. It yanks you along at a great pace, stylistically extremely refreshing, interspersed with super interesting facts and segues, the writer flips from section to section but in a totally fluid way - Eddie Van Halen springs to mind, you will see what I mean by that comment when you read it. A truly original piece of work, an absolute pleasure. I finished the book a richer person. BUY IT!!
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