Incendiary Paperback – 6 Apr 2006
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"Feels absolutely authentic" -- Independent On Sunday
"a novel to race through". -- Matt Warman, The Daily Telegraph
Compelling fiction. -- Katie Owen, Sunday Telegraph, 9 April 06
The extraordinary first novel from the author of THE OTHER HAND --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Unusual but easy read although the topic would not lead you to think so there is a lot of humour in this book. I read it quickly and I did enjoy itPublished 7 months ago by Mags4040
Wow. I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. I want to say it's unrealistic but it's not and that's scary. I want to say it's funny, and it is in a very sad way. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Michelle
Chris Cleave is a superb writer and although not as good as The Other Hand ztill a great read,Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
A great read loved this book it was gritty , funny, sad and reflective it made me think . Read it !Published 11 months ago by Many things
The saddest thing I've ever read. Can't work out if it was good or not as I can't get past how harrowing it was.Published 11 months ago by Ms R E Harper
As always Chris Cleave takes you in and then on a journey which goes up and down and round to a twist. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Anne-Marie Walls
I'm torn. I both loved this book and hated it. I loved the narrator, she is very real and down to earth with a good sense of humour yet also poignantly vulnerable and real. Read morePublished 13 months ago by singingcapybara