Unexploded
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Unexploded

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  281 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Unexploded is the much-anticipated new novel from Alison MacLeod.

May, 1940. On Park Crescent, Geoffrey and Evelyn Beaumont and their eight-year-old son, Philip, anxiously await news of the expected enemy landing on the beaches of Brighton.

It is a year of tension and change. Geoffrey becomes Superintendent of the enemy alien camp at the far reaches of town, while Philip is...more
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published July 26th 2013 by Hamish Hamilton (first published July 25th 2013)
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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiThe Lowland by Jhumpa LahiriThe Luminaries by Eleanor CattonTransAtlantic by Colum McCannThe Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
2013 Man Booker Prize Longlist
9th out of 13 books — 217 voters
Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionTransAtlantic by Colum McCannThe Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2013
32nd out of 179 books — 271 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,597)
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Elaine
Sep 20, 2013 Elaine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This is the book to read if you've had your fill of London Blitz narratives and everyone pulling together, victory gardens, Winston Churchill, the stiff upper lip, plucky Cockneys, courageous nursing sisters, and heroic but doomed RAF lads.

Unexploded picks up where Unity Mitford and Oswald Mosley left off, and shows us an unromanticized England where xenophobia, anti-Semitism and deprivation of civil liberties are prominent, as are petty selfishness and cowardice. Indeed, it's almost shocking wh...more
Antonomasia
Aug 09, 2013 Antonomasia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Booker longlist
Beguiling.

I cannot divine exactly how MacLeod's style differs from what I'd call “standard literary fiction”; quoting a couple of sentences wouldn't show you. This feeling is instinctive and subjective, but a page might make it understandable. Simply, her words did not go blah blah blah cartoonishly in my head as that sort of writing does, and I was sincerely drawn into the world of the characters.

Similarly, the subjects of Unexploded are easy to dismiss as commonplace and middlebrow. Troubles...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started this book from the Booker 2013 longlist, expecting to abandon it. I really didn't think I'd find anything new in one more World War 2 novel. To my surprise, I couldn't put it down, because this isn't a story about war, but a story about people dealing with the inconvenience of war almost just in the background, except that war is the reason for everything.

It also made me cry, so there's that. That's pretty rare for me as a reader, but MacLeod captures the internal lives of her characte...more
Susan
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 heroin...more
Jennifer
There are some excellent aspects of this book that I really enjoyed. The setting is Brighton England during 1940. I knew very little about that port town's history during WWII and it was fascinating to hear about their fear of beach invasion, the internment camp set up on the racetrack, the bombings they suffered and those that they missed knowing that the enemy planes are heading for London instead (and feeling relief alongside fear and sadness knowing someone else is going to get hit).

While t...more
Laura
From BBC radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
A tale of love, art and prejudice set in wartime Brighton.
Alexandra Daw
This was one of the books long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. I hadn't read Alison Macleod before this. She has also written The Wave Theory of Angels and The Changeling. I do remember hearing some murmuring about The Wave Theory, so I might look that one up now. The Man Booker website tell us that Macleod was "raised in Canada and has lived in England since 1987". She lives in Brighton, where this latest novel is set, but in a different time period - May 1940 to be exact. England is at war wi...more
Ape
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hugh
I knew nothing about the author before finding this book, but was hugely impressed by its literacy and fresh insights into what could have been quite cliched subject matter. A readable and gripping story of life in Brighton during the darkest days of World War 2, it has a nuanced and believable view of the moral issues of the time, and resists the heroic view.
Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar
At the heart of Alison MacLeod's novel, Unexploded, is a couple: Evelyn and Geoffrey Beaumont. Right from the beginning of the novel, we know that their marriage is not working out. It is May 1940, and war has begun in Europe. In Brighton, the seaside town in England, where the Beaumonts live, everyone is waiting with bated breath for Hitler to invade England. Preparations are on for the war, houses have been vacated, the racecourse has been turned into an army camp, money is being taken out of...more
Peter
Average Booker longlisted title which will play very well if it shortlists. Obviously wasn't my thing but was very well observed and the characters were very distinct from one another which is a highlight of the kind of middle class family novel it hails from, they all seemed to be from utterly different universes which is how we truly navigate our lives.
Pauline  Butcher Bird
The big value of this book was to educate me on how frightening it must have been living in Brighton during the Second World War. I did not know that if the Germans came ashore and took over the town, bank managers were ordered to 'disappear' with as much cash as they could and abandon their families to their fate - even cyanide tablets are left if they would be needed. Similarly, although I knew Germans were sent to prison, I did not know that German Jews were treated so poorly.

As to the story...more
Pat
For some reason this book didn't quite do it for me. It is a slightly different take on a war story in that it is set in Brighton in 1940 when the threat of a German invasion was very real and the people who lived there were understandably very worried. But it tells the tale of middle class angst and really shows up peoples prejudices as well as their justified fears. I couldn't really warm to the main characters although maybe they were very much a product of their time - narrow and small minde...more
Lyn Ellison
I read a review of this book which sparked my interest and I was rewarded. The story of a conventional married couple and their young son whose lives are forever changed by the impact of war and the intrusion into their lives of a German-Jewish internee. Beautifully written, the characters are well drawn and believable. Decent but flawed and deeply human. I frequently found myself wondering what I would do in said circumstances and drifting off into imagining, which I find increasingly rare in c...more
Ian Mapp
How disappointing, when mentally you progress through a book and find yourself knocking stars off until you are left with one. It may have got two, but when you hover over it, Goodreads suggests that "it was ok".

It really wasn't. How can a book make WWII boring? This one managed it hands down.

It starts off OK - interesting location - Brighton, rather than London and intersting characters - Evelyn and Geoffrey - Struggled to have their child Phillip and then have to be careful not to have another...more
Joanna
This was an interesting book, an outsider's view of England during the war. A fascinating account of the tiny details and larger events of the early years of the war, MacLeod did a truly remarkable job of conjuring up the uncertainty and double standards of the people of England, something which is often glossed over with the benefit of hindsight in other novels. The prose was quite beautiful, and very evocative of place and time. I found the characters to have depth and richness, the setting, t...more
Karen
Eight months after Britain declares war on German, the people of Brighton anxiously prepare for a rumoured Nazi invasion. The town's piers are dismantled and barbed wire goes up on the beach. Soon vegetable seedlings will replace the flower displays in the parks and the lights of the fun fair will be dimmed. Already the racecourse has been transformed into an internment camp for whose people deemed to be 'suspicious'. such as Otto Gottlieb, a German-Jewish artist whose work featured in the Nazi...more
Ben Dutton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lianne
The first thing I honestly felt when I finished the last sentence of this novel was frustration. On the one hand, I knew going into the book (and reinforced by the first chapter) that this was going to be a tense and bleak read. Unexploded is a slow read (perhaps even a little too slow), the drama unfolding sluggishly but tensions remaining high throughout. This coupled with the behaviours and norms of the society at the time (Evelyn’s middle/upper class upbringing, with what is said and left un...more
Tien
This is not the typical book I would read though that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the experience. What was appealing to me, in the first place, was probably the cover though now that I really looked it at, I realised that I really didn’t know what I was looking at. A woman with 40s hairstyle sitting on the beach is semitone (or is it sepia? It’s hard to tell since I read a digital version) was what drew me. However, now that I’ve read the book, I can see what the cover is portraying and it...more
Marlene
I live in Brighton and so was looking forward to reading about the effects of WWII on familiar places and people who lived there during it. I'm also a fan of of dramas set in that era so was certain I was in for a treat. How disappointing, then, to find that I really couldn't be bothered to finish the novel and the reason was that it was peopled with unsympathetic, boring, irritating characters, none of whom seemed to like or care about one another. I found the continual, tortuous examination by...more
Kate
See my full review (with more quotes) here: http://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wor...

“Bright-eyed young men, beautiful, foolish and frightened young men, were being blown to pieces – literally, she thought, to pieces – as she sat in her Wednesday-morning knitting circle making socks for feet that would be lost to amputations, and mittens for hands that would never cup a waist or a breast again.”

Would it be wrong to fill this review with Alison MacLeod’s extremely elegant words about wartime? Beca...more
Steven Buechler
War is about the clash of ideals. It brings about destruction and chaos and upheaval on a massive scale. It has been well documented in the history texts time and time again. But it also brings confusion and chaos on a personal level to people on the periphery of the conflict. And that is what Alison Macleod documents well in her novel Unexploded.

Page 5-6
In the shop that afternoon, Evelyn had clutched Tillie's list and gathered the items as if each were a talisman against uncertainty, and if t...more
Ian
I saw this novel on the Booker Prize long list, and something about it seemed like it might appeal. So I bought a copy. And… well, it read a bit like a parody of your typical middle-class literary novel - a couple’s marriage slowly implodes, a child unwittingly betrays someone, which leads to a shocking end… The only difference is that the story is set in Brighton in 1940, much is made of some Brits’ admiration of Hitler (not to mention their blatant anti-semitism), and Virginia Woolf makes an a...more
Roger Boyle
I read a recommendation for this book but I can't recall where.

When I started it, I though it was a 5 as she writes so well; then as time went by I began to tire of the florid metaphors and similes, although I still think she writes well.

Very nice to see a picture of wartime that has nothing to do with the shooting - plausibly accurate, I suspect.

But it's also let down a little by some contrived sections, and I'm not sure people quite behave like that - even in 1940.

But worth reading.
Venuskitten
Set in Brighton during the Second World War, the first half of Unexploded pulses with the tension and threat of invasion by Germany; all that lies between England and the Nazis is the Channel. The comfortable middle-class life of Evelyn, Geoffrey and their young son Philip is turned upside down, and events cause Evelyn and Geoffrey to re-evaluate their marriage.

The novel captures the details of everyday life in England during the war; injuries suffered by those returning from the Front, Jews des...more
Jo at Jaffareadstoo
The novel is set in Brighton during 1940 and 1941 and follows the story of Geoffrey and Evelyn Beaumont and their son, Philip as they prepare for what they think will be an enemy invasion. The area is awash with rumour and counter-rumour, and when Geoffrey is removed from his stable job at the bank and sent to be the superintendent of an enemy alien camp, Evelyn and Philip are left to fend for themselves. When Evelyn comes across Otto Gottlieb, a Jewish painter who is interred in her husband's c...more
Carol
I enjoyed this 'take' on WW2. Set in Brighton, it begins gently and predictably; only 26 miles away from Nazi Occupation and middle class married couple Evie and Geoffrey face the prospect of separation through Geoffrey's job. But nothing could have prepared them for the separation which follows. Emotional and poignant without being cliched. Not sure why it was long listed for The Booker though.
Angie
'Unexploded' is the story of a happily married couple, Evelyn and Geoffrey, who live in Brighton during the Second World War. The town is preparing for the enemy to land on their beaches any day. Evelyn meets Otto who is a German-Jewish painter being held at the town's internment camp of which Geoffrey is the superintendent. The book is so well written. I really felt like I was in Brighton in 1940, fearfully waiting for Hitler to take over my town, or be killed in my bed during one of the many b...more
Julianne Quaine
Unexploded was long-listed for the 2013 Booker Prize. It is set in Brighton during World War II when the English are expecting the Germans to invade at any time and so round up any German suspects. Evelyn is married to Geoffrey and has one son, Phillip. Social mores are changing and Lord Haw-Haw is on the BBC ridiculing Churchill. Into their lives come Otto an escapee from German cruelty only to be interred at the local camp for suspects, which Geoffrey oversights. Evelyn and Geoffrey's lives ar...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Alison MacLeod was born in Montreal, Canada. In her early years the family moved from Quebec to Michigan and finally back to Nova Scotia, the home province of both her parents, and the place where both sides of the family had lived for generations.

Her first real understand...more
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“To imagine wasn’t to escape but to go deeper; to see through to the secret life of the world.” 1 likes
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