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3.8 out of 5 stars100
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 16 August 2010
I bought and read this book after seeing someone else engrossed in it during a long train journey between Warrington and Glasgow and was intrigued by the promises it made on the back of the book. While others seem to find the story interesting and realistic this wasn't the case for me and I simply couldn't identify in any way with the lead female character. She doesn't insprire any sympathy or real emotion which is a pity as the book seemed to promise that the story would be about motherhood and its love and guilt when in fact "her boy" seemed to be a mere accessory to her life. To be honest, the main character's primary priority from the first page of the book to the last was sex, which isn't true of most women - or men for that matter (I hope!) As such, it was hard or even impossible for me to care about or feel pity for her.

Both Jasper (the man the narrator is having sex with as her husband and son are blown up) and Petra (his girlfriend) are horrible parodies of the 'Hooray Henry' types and the author seems to rely on steretypes rather a lot: the working class are stereotyped themselves, and I would personally question whether a policeman and his wife are working class. Perhaps upper working - particularly in London - but at any rate, the characters weren't believeable and since the plot relied on them to be effective this book wasn't a particularly enjoyable read for me.
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VINE VOICEon 23 June 2012
I knew that this book used terrorism as its focus but was not quite prepared for the direct angle used. There is a huge attack on a football stadium and the narrator is trying to come to terms with the results of the carnage through her experience of post traumatic stress.
The description of the area surrounding the stadium just after the blast is very memorable and has to have some parallels to how it was in New York during 911, clearly this author has done his research.
As standalone characters, they are all quite strong but I am not convinced about the relationships. I understand that times are strange in the novel but I particularly was not comfortable with the main character working for the police or her dealings with Petra and Jasper.
Occasionally the story goes too far into the realms of unbelievable but you are always dragged back with the mention of Osama - oh yes, this is a letter. Then you remember that the whole process of PTSD is being explored and it is likely to be far from what any of us can imagine.
There are elements to this book that can be critised but generally it is a very interesting view of an event which just could happen.
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on 11 August 2013
My sister recommended Incendiary to me, 'you've got to read this'. I tend to read thrillers and crime fiction (Brookmyre, Hayder etc) but am open for suggestions. I love a good recommendation, so I went and bought this on Amazon (for basically pennies!) without having read a thing about it.
As it arrived, I was fascinated by its front cover, never looking at the back - it'd spoil the surprise. As I started reading it, I was taken aback by the unusual style used. It's a first person narrative, but very different from what it tends to be. You get sucked into this person's life and mind so quickly, you don't even notice. It's very different from anything I've read before, maybe comparable to Forrest Gump's style of narrative.

I found myself struggling with the narrative, as I'm not a huge fan of first person - never mind when the person is so different from what I'm used to, it was difficult to try and not be annoyed by her.

However. The plot is great, the idea is great and all the characters are really good. I really did enjoy this read, as it shook me, shocked me, made me cry, laugh and indeed, cringe. Very good.
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on 27 September 2009
I read this book at white-heat pace, just as I did with The Other Hand. Chris Cleave's writing has a way of getting under the skin. Because the 'voice' in this book is largely jaunty and matter-of-fact, it tends to have a greater impact when conveying such horrific and graphic descriptions of terrorism in action. I found it impossible to put down, and both this, and The Other Hand have stayed in my mind since I finished reading them. I struggle to understand the negative reviews, but then we are all different after all, and one person's 'fantastic' book is another person's 'worst read of the year'...it's odd, but can't be helped. I have recommended both Chris Cleave's books to everyone I know since reading them, and my daughter, who is a slow and reluctant reader, has gobbled up The Other Hand in a single day, and can't wait to read Incendiary now. I would say if this type of book isn't your usual thing (and I haven't come across anything like it, so I doubt it will be), just open your mind and go with it.
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on 11 August 2013
The moment I finished this book I knew I would be writing a good review. Just as I was about to write it I noticed quite a few 1 star reviews so I decided to take a look. The fact that the book has attracted so many stars from 1 to 5 (and majority 5!) I think shows how it has invoked opinions in many people. If you are thinking of buying this book I wouldn't be put off by the 1 star reviews, which appear to be obsessed by some minor details and stereotyped characters. There are 10million people in London so I'm quite sure the lead character does exist somewhere! For me, this book was a brave story of what could happen, and how we could feel. It's an account of how people cope with the unthinkable and it's done in a slightly different way. It's brutal in parts, tender in others, and of course a little cliché. I think the author has been bold and stepped outside of the normal publishing rules to produce something raw. If you want something a bit different then go for it, you won't be disappointed.
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on 14 February 2006
I dont necessarily agree that this is the compelling, touching masterpiece that some believe, but I certainly think thats its a good first novel.
To address one other reviewer's comments first , I think its a little 1950's to assume that because a writer went to Oxford and wrote for a broadsheet he cant possibly have come from a council estate. I believe that in Cleaves case he didnt - he was in fact brought up in Africa - but I feel I should defend the principle that not all writers of 'working class' stories have to spend time down a pit to prove their authenticity. As it happens I dont find it patronising or tacky that Cleave has attempted to write this as a working class woman, but that doesnt mean I think he's done it particularly well.
The story is a deeply emotional one and at points, is touching, but the language used is too often conflicted and forced. There were too many occasions on which the monologue seemed unrealistic and I think this has more to do with the gender discrepancy than the class one.
A good novel but, not , I believe, a wonderful one.
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on 7 June 2015
I bought this book 6 years ago and it has spent all that time sitting on the bookshelf - I picked it up on Friday with the intention of sending it to the charity shop (I decided that if after 6 years it hadn't appealed to me it probably never would). I read the first couple of pages before putting it in the charity bag and found I was totally gripped by it! This book is brilliant I read it in a day - the characters are drawn out really well, and the aftermarth of a terrorist attack is described superbly. The story is told through a letter from the main character to Osama, thoughts and feelings of the main characters and their individual ways of coping with the grief of the situation is very real. This book is not miserable in any way and at times the main character has you laughing out loud at what she is telling Osama. I'm so glad I read this book before giving it away unread!
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on 6 February 2010
Having read The Other Hand in two sittings I thought it a 'must' to order his first novel, Incendiary, and only hoped i would enjoy it as much.
Had I known before I began to read this book that it was centred around a terrorist attack on Arsenal's football stadium, I would certainly not have read it. It was too close to home for me, yet I read on in morbid curiosity as the chaos and distress unfolded. I could literally not put the book down. Had the awful events that create the basis for this story not been dealt with quickly by Cleave, I would almost certainly not have read on. How he managed to turn something SO distressing into something so captivating I will never know.

This book is gripping, cleverly written and you will no doubt read it in two or three sittings. Its pure Marmite, you will either love it or hate it. I am still undecided.
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on 13 July 2005
With terrible and inadvertent presage it is a shocking, almost unbelievable, coincidence that this book was officially launched on 7 July 2005. Since I had ordered the book in advance, it was also the day I received the book from Amazon. There it was lying on my desk in London as news came through about the London bombings.
The book (as it has to be) is brutal from page one. The images are brutal, the language is brutal, the honesty is brutal. The opening third builds to an almost apocalyptic climax. And the smart part is that in the middle of the chaos is the salt-of-the-earth stoic East End voice, impressing with almost myopic matter-of-factness.
And then the book switches focus. Still being smart, it becomes an almost parody on the different lives of the Londoner. Situations and personalities don't harm the book, or its ambitions, by their ridiculous nature, they just, more obviously, make its point.
There are many good reasons to read the book. Cleave is clever. The book: a contemporary pantomime. But it is also, in a small, unfortunate and unanticipated way, a part of history.
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on 20 January 2013
I have just finished this book and found the subject disturbing but appreciated the unusual method of writing without punctuation. This woman, working class but intelligent who had experienced the most awful tragedy of losing her husband and son in a terrorist attack, is writing a letter to Osama bin Laden. She is constantly trying to pull herself up out of her grief, firstly by getting a job with her husband's police colleague and finally as a shelf stacker in a supermarket. Her relationship with Jasper is a cry for kindness and attention even when she is still married but the introduction of Petra into the situation and her relationship with the woman bothered me. The woman's downfall at the end was fairly predictable -she had tried so hard to overcome the situation.
A good read!
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