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Incendiary Paperback – 6 Apr 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099490544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099490548
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,475,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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

Book Description

The extraordinary first novel from the author of THE OTHER HAND --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had to check whether Chris Cleave was a female writer, as the narrator is so convincing in her vulnerability and grief. She is imperfect, her morals dubious; but then again she is a cipher for a lot of people in the modern world. She remarks at one point that she can almost understand why the western world is seen as such a target for the hatred of fanatics, who despise its affluence and profligacy at every level. Most convincing and touching is the depiction of the narrator's sense of loss, the gaping holes left in her life by the bomb that killed her loved ones. She is flawed but deserving of sympathy and the snapshots of other characters, admittedly less well defined, are amusing and insightful. The style of prose is deceptively easy to read, but very powerful.
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Format: Paperback
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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