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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and engaging
I saw this recommended in the Observer Review and am glad I bought it for my Kindle. It evokes a clear picture of life in Brighton (it helps if you know the town) in WW2. Elements of it reminded me of Michael Frayn's "The Spies". The dynamics within the central family and their friends and lovers ring true and there are many unexpected twists.

Highly...
Published 7 months ago by Janet Conroy

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something Missing
The opening chapter started so well, with Evelyn struggling to make do without her daily help, and trying to coming to terms with a possible invasion after the failure of the Dunkirk landings. This swiftly changed as historical errors blundered their way into the text of my pre-release copy, with mentions of paracetamol and antibiotics for Geoffrey's toothache. I hope...
Published 13 months ago by Basement Cat


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something Missing, 21 Oct 2013
By 
Basement Cat (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Unexploded (Kindle Edition)
The opening chapter started so well, with Evelyn struggling to make do without her daily help, and trying to coming to terms with a possible invasion after the failure of the Dunkirk landings. This swiftly changed as historical errors blundered their way into the text of my pre-release copy, with mentions of paracetamol and antibiotics for Geoffrey's toothache. I hope this was corrected before publication, but my trust in the author was lost from that point.
Geoffrey, Evelyn and their son Philip are three people in a family that hardly seem to know each other at all. All three of them seem to be something else on the surface, maybe playing a role that they feel society has imposed on them. But just under that surface, and very easily exposed, is something else much darker. All this has unbelievably been hidden throughout their marriage, and all three of them go off the rails at the same time. The problem with this is, that it's very hard to care about what happens to any of these people. They seem to be deceitful and uncaring both to each other, and the others they involve as well. Because of the way that the characters are introduced to the reader, it just seemed too incredible that they would actually do these things too. I do not think that the author has understood how people really lived and interacted in the 1940's in Britain, but has used an idea based on a stereotype that never existed. This is a shame, because it could have been such a fantastic book. The plot is good, the ideas for the characters and the historical context, especially the location - all great, but only in the hands of a different author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unexploded has some really good period descriptions of life in a coastal town in ..., 31 July 2014
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This review is from: Unexploded (Kindle Edition)
Unexploded has some really good period descriptions of life in a coastal town in England in 1940. As others have pointed out, there are inaccuracies which should have been checked out, but as someone who doesn't know Brighton, I didn't find that a problem. What I did find more difficult was the fact that the characters did not fully come to life. That's not just because the story is told in the third person. It's more I think because they don't have an evolving vibrant consistency which makes them very immediate. That's a serious loss in a novel I think. The point of view also changes more or less midstream on occasions which is quite disorientating and alienating from the characters.

I was amused by the reviewer who said the novel should be called 'Similes Are Us'. It's a bit unkind, but there is a surfeit of similes, some of which seem to be there for the sake of it, and some which stretch credibility. There are also descriptive passages which are well written, but which seem to have no purpose beyond displaying the ability the author has. There is also a tendency to 'tell' rather than 'show', which is a cliche over used in writing circles (you can't show everything in a 300+ page novel) but which I guess Alison Macleod passes on to her students at Chichester.

Several reviewers have felt the ending is a disappointment. I don't share that. I think the ending works OK.

About a third of the way through this book, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to finish it. However, it was interesting enough to make me want to carry on. I can't say I disliked it. Equally I can't say I really enjoyed it as some reviewers clearly did. So I've given it the middle rating of three stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and engaging, 20 April 2014
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This review is from: Unexploded (Kindle Edition)
I saw this recommended in the Observer Review and am glad I bought it for my Kindle. It evokes a clear picture of life in Brighton (it helps if you know the town) in WW2. Elements of it reminded me of Michael Frayn's "The Spies". The dynamics within the central family and their friends and lovers ring true and there are many unexpected twists.

Highly recommended
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unexploded, 26 July 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unexploded (Kindle Edition)
This novel is set in Brighton, between May 1940 and June 1941. It begins literally days after Dunkirk, when the inhabitants of the seaside town are facing not only the harsh reality of war but the very real threat of invasion. There is only fifty miles of water between them and the enemy and Brighton is "an excellent place to land." However, both those poised across the Channel and those waiting for invasion have some similarities - in that many of them are anti-Semetic. That includes our heroine, Evelyn's, snobbish mother and her banker husband, Geoffrey.

Evelyn and Geoffrey Beaumont live in Brighton, as opposed to the more elegant and desirable Hove, where her mother resides - making deliciously sniping remarks and generally looking down on her daughter's lifestyle. Evelyn is the product of a finishing school and feels generally unable to cope with the cooking and household tasks she faces now she has no help. Geoffrey, although his mother in law may see him as hardly son in law material, is, in fact, one of the town's leading bankers, Head of the Invasion Committee and Superintendent of the new Internment Camp. Together with their eight year old son, Philip, they live a contented, if uneventful life, which war is about to change. Through the internment camp, Evelyn is to come into contact with Otto Gottlieb, a German artist. Both his presence in their lives, plus the war itself, will change Evelyn and Geoffrey's lives forever.

I found that I had immense sympathy for all the major characters of Evelyn, Geoffrey and Otto. The war changed their lives and Geoffrey, especially, was under immense pressure to "turn a blind eye" during his weekly camp inspection. Having a reserved occupation, he still had to work for the war effort and, indeed, there are great little slogans peppered throughout the text, warning people to think before they travelled, for example, as well as those related to virtually every aspect of everyday life. The author paints a wonderful portrait of Brighton under threat of invasion. Of radio broadcasts from the reassurance of the BBC announcers to the propaganda of Lord Haw Haw. Of shortages, collections and rumours. This is expertly realised in the life of son Philip, who roams the town with his friends, creating bizarre fantasies of Hitler visiting the Pavilion and looking for scapegoats. At times, Evelyn is a slightly frustrating heroine; Geoffrey begs her to talk to him and you do feel that she could have solved many of her issues and worries by just voicing them, rather than loitering in doorways unable to express her feelings. However, she is a product of her class and education and eminently human in her relationships. Overall, this is an excellent portrait of a time and place, when England (and Brighton) waited and suspicion was in the air. Longlisted for the Booker, I will be intrigued to see whether it makes the shortlist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 July 2014
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This review is from: Unexploded (Paperback)
Very enjoyable and would recommend to friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars uncomfortable!, 11 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Unexploded (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book but it did make me feel uncomfortable at times. Well done to the author to bring in issues which do not always find their way into the romanticised view we often get of the tensions of the period.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Romantic Novel, 13 Nov 2013
By 
Ms S. J. Clement "snootella" (Brighton UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Unexploded (Hardcover)
What is going on in this book?She's done loads of research but it is full of factual inaccuracies(gasoline? paracetamol?penicillin?) and some goppingly silly metaphors.Bombs NEVER fall 'like autumn leaves' do they?
It's not a case of not liking the characters...I just don't believe in any of them.The sub plot about the boys wanting to get hold of a real Jew is totally unnecessary to the story and there are way too many 'purple passages'. That this novel was written by someone who actually teaches Creative Writing is well, terrifying!Where was her editor? Asleep?
I've said it is really a romantic fiction partly because that is the real story(my bourgeois marriage is a sham;I must experience the genuine passion of shagging a foreign artist) and honestly,the straining-for-effect in the overloaded prose had me wincing.
What grieves me most of all is that,among Amazon reviewers,this bad book scores almost as well as Sarah Waters' wonderful 'The Night Watch'.
Do yourself a favour and read that book-not this unconvincing confection.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, 27 April 2014
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This review is from: Unexploded (Kindle Edition)
Enjoyed this book but dissappointed with the ending. Inconclusive.A good mix of emotions some excitement but also personal feelings. A good read.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inexplicable., 5 Sep 2013
This review is from: Unexploded (Hardcover)
Oh dear: here I go again with a fairly negative review. Let me tell you of my reading preferences.
Of nineteenth century literature, I am a huge fan of Thomas Hardy, and also like Trollope and Austen. My favourite reads from the twentieth century are Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Taylor, Graham Greene and Virginia Woolf. More recently, I have enjoyed the writings of Per Petterson, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Tracy Chevalier. Hardy is my number one.
All of these authors make wonderful use of the English language. Their descriptive passages are always relevant and succinct, effective and sumptuous. Alison Macleod has written such passages in 'Unexploded'. Unfortunately she has written too many; some, particularly in the first 100 pages, with such ridiculous similes, that they actually detract from the narrative. You don't need to be too wordy to be worthy.
And then there's that other distraction, the bane of many a modern novel, the disrupted time line. I don't mind doing some work in a novel - often I enjoy it for just that - but when it interrupts a flow, it can be both annoying and confusing. The additional device of chopping and changing, within a chapter, between one scene of action and another is similarly frustrating.
This novel never really gets to grips with either its subject matter or its characters. There are too many irrelevancies: the lives of the son, Philip, and his friends; the red herring of the green capsules; the butcher. Yet we don't learn enough about the internment camp, or the character of Otto Godlove.
There is plenty of period detail, and Alison has obviously done her homework, but there is sometimes too much, especially in the form of lists. But some of 'Unexploded', particularly the middle section, is beautifully written. What she needed was for one of the friends whom she thanks, or the publishers, to point out the faults, and help her to edit. It continues to annoy me that modern authors feel they have to list their mentors, especially when they have not criticised enough. If authors give thanks at all it should be to their readers: thank you for buying my book, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much/ more as/than I have in writing it.
On a personal note, if Alison read this review, I am the man who your mate (author) Ray Robinson photographed with your book in a pub in Matlock. If you print off the photo', you can take it down to your local and throw darts at it.
I will never write a novel as good as 'Unexploded', but my critical gaze is first rate. Good luck with the next one!
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedium, 29 July 2013
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Unexploded (Kindle Edition)
Right-o. Booker longlist or no, this one bored me. Pretty much every minute was excruciating tedium.

On the plus side, Unexploded apparently conveys a very strong sense of time and place. It's true that Brighton in the early years of the war makes a pleasant change from inner city London or the middle of the English countryside. There is a feeling of trying to cling onto normal life; the restrictions and privations assumed initially to be temporary. We see the last of private petrol; the last onions; the last days on the beach. Piece by piece, normal life is dismantled and the luxuries of yesterday are turned into the necessities of tomorrow. The racecourse becomes an internment camp; metal is scrapped for bombs; the grammar school becomes a convalescence hospital.

And in the midst of the chaos and falling bombs, Geoffrey and Evelyn have marital problems.

Every now and then, things threaten to get interesting. There are mentions of Mosley and Lord Haw-Haw. Geoffrey and Evelyn's son Philip looks set to get involved in dangerous and exciting situations. There are a couple of suicide pills floating around. There's a mysterious German who turned up with tales of torture in a German KZ camp and a stack of forged banknotes. But ultimately they all fizzle out. Damp squibs, every one.

I am told - but don't know from first hand experience - that the narrative style owes much to Virginia Woolf. Indeed La Woolf gets several mentions and a cameo role. Alas, the significance of this passed me by completely. Rather than elevating the ordinary into a great poetic vision, this novel seems to suck the monumental down into the abyss of ordinariness. We don't care what happens to the lead characters. The only half-captivating character is Leah, a character very much of secondary importance.

It's a pity. The writing is competent and flows well. The trouble is that, for this reader at least, Alison Macleod doesn't have anything very interesting to say.
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Unexploded
Unexploded by Alison MacLeod (Hardcover - 26 July 2013)
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