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3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,855 Ratings  ·  1,484 Reviews
When a massive suicide bomb explodes at a London soccer match a woman loses both her four-year-old son and her husband. But the bombing is only the beginning. In a voice alive with grief, compassion, and startling humor, Incendiary is a stunning debut of one ordinary life blown apart by terror.
Paperback, 239 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by Anchor (first published 2005)
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Little Bee by Chris CleaveLone Wolf by Jodi PicoultVanishing Acts by Jodi PicoultIncendiary by Chris CleaveThe Pact by Jodi Picoult
My "Top 10" Favoritest Books
4th out of 6 books — 5 voters
Presence by Perie WolfordPresence by Perie WolfordThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateHave You Seen Marie? by Sandra CisnerosIncendiary by Chris Cleave
2013 Book List
5th out of 21 books — 7 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
May 11, 2016 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: terrorism
There are several major elements to Incendiary, the wonderful book Chris Cleave wrote well before he became known for Little Bee.

First a tough, working-class, London mom loses her bomb-squad husband and four-year-old son when terrorists bomb a packed soccer stadium, suffering injuries herself in attempting to find them immediately after the event. The unnamed narrator has to decide whether life is worth living. Her grief, and PTSD is manifest in hallucinations. She sees her dead son with increa
Lance Greenfield
Original, entertaining, authentic and believable

An East End [of London:] woman decides to write a letter to Osama bin Laden after a team of his suicide bombers wreck her life by indiscriminately blowing up the crowd at a football match, killing both her husband and her four-and-a-quarter year-old son, along with over a thousand other football fans.

The letter is written, mainly in the authentic language of an East End gal, but with snippets of people from other worlds. The grammar and punctuatio
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Dec 20, 2009 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it did not like it
UGH!! This is horrible! Trying to read it is like banging your head against a concrete pillar. You should only do it for the feeling of relief when you finally decide to stop.

I read about 30 pages and I can't take any more. The narrator is an obsessive---the kind who alphabetizes everything in her kitchen cupboards and freezer...and then goes one level deeper and alphabetizes within the alphabetization!
This entire "Dear Osama" story is written in that obsessive fashion. Annoying details repeat
Robert Beveridge
Jan 23, 2008 Robert Beveridge rated it really liked it
Chris Cleave, Incendiary (Knopf, 2005)

Dear Osama,

With these two words, Chris Cleave kicks off his powerful novel Incendiary, and you know it's not going to be something you've seen before. And indeed it is not. The entire thing is written by the unnamed protagonist in a letter to Osama bin-Laden after al-Qaeda bombed a stadium during a big match, taking the lives of her husband and son. She tries to make a go of life afterwards, but while she never explicitly asks the question, it's embedded in
Sep 20, 2012 M rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
OK, Cleave. It's officially over for us. You are a man on a mission, a guy who tries to pass himself off as clever but is merely gimmicky, a man who attempts pathos and ends up mawkish. BLARGH. Here, in no particular order, are the things I can't stand in novels, in general, and applied to this one, in specific:
1. Letters that magically, somehow, have perfectly remembered dialogues and long plot driven descriptions that no one would ever write.

It's not only lazy but impossible to believe. The wh
Feb 28, 2010 Gigi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
wow. i buy the book at the miami airport and start reading at takeoff. fifteen minutes later, my mouth is literally hanging open with shock. a three hour flight to nyc feels like six seconds and i race home to finish the book that night. i read and loved little bee (chris cleave's 2008 novel) and i have been an ardent and faithful word-of-mouther for the last year, pushing it onto the bookshelves of anyone who will hear me out. i don't think love is the right word for my reaction to incendiary. ...more
Aug 09, 2011 Jess rated it did not like it
After Little Bee, I had high hopes for Incendiary. Unfortunately, Chris Cleave left me disappointed. Unfortunately, Incendiary seems more like an outlandish dark daydream than anything real. For instance, she throws up on Prince William. Really? Really. I understand what Cleave was trying to do here, but no part of it seemed real. The entire time I thought I was reading some middle schooler's attempt to be a dark and gruesome author. With the middle schooler you pat him on the back, at least he' ...more
Mar 10, 2010 Sheila rated it it was amazing
I loved Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, so when my husband learned that I was meeting a friend in a bookstore, he told me I should look for Cleave’s first book Indendiary and see if I’d like that too. So I looked.

Pages of compliments to the author at the start of a book do tend to have a bad effect on me. By the time I’d found the first page of writing, my bookstore coffee was cold. I almost wrote the novel off as artsy and not my style but then I stopped and read again. And I was thoroughly hooked.

May 01, 2014 Marialyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, just wow! This book just blew me away literally. It was one of those books that you love to hate but the realism, the pathos, the fear is brought out on every single page. Perhaps this book had such an impact because I am a native New Yorker who lived and worked a mere fifteen miles away from ground zero. I remember the panic, the sorrow, the intense feeling of both grief and despair as if that event occurred yesterday.

The author has revived that feeling of intense loss and the way a mind c
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book is amazing. I would tell you all about it but I don't want to ruin anything for you.

The whole book is written as a letter to Osama from a woman whose husband and son were killed in a huge London bombing in which over 1,000 people died. They call it May Day (read: 9/11).

If you think this sounds really maudlin - it isn't. It is sad, funny, real, true, and breathtaking. This is not some sob-your-heart-out dime novel. It's a deep, brutal, personal look at human nature and tragedy.

The woma
Feb 23, 2011 Jill rated it liked it
Imagine that you’re a working class Cockney mother with a husband who detonates bombs and a young son who is four years and three months old. You stave off your anxieties about the uncertainty of your life through mindless sex encounters. Eventually, you meet a neighbor – a journalist named Jasper – and, while your husband and son are at a soccer game, you invite him to your flat. At the exact same time you are in the throes of sexual abandon, there’s a massive terrorist bomb attack at the Londo ...more
May 22, 2013 Lénia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Depois de ter lido "Pequena Abelha" e "Menina de Ouro" e de ter adorado os dois, faltava-me ler "Incendiário", que é o primeiro romance do autor.
Logo no início estranhei: a ausência de vírgulas foi coisa a que tive que me habituar, mas consegui fazê-lo muito rapidamente. Na verdade, sendo este livro uma carta escrita pela narradora a Osama Bin Laden, ele está escrito na linguagem que ela utiliza e não na linguagem que o autor utiliza. Só por isso, já merece ovação de pé, porque nem sempre é fác
Sep 08, 2011 Rachelfm rated it it was amazing
Chris Cleave creates such memorable, credible characters with absolutely unique voices. The admittedly imperfect mother narrating this work in her singular, working-class, comma-phobic London voice grabs you by the gut. I didn't come up for air while reading this book. A fictional but eerily realistic terror attack rips through London and the life of one small family. The surviving mother writes a year-long letter to Osama bin Laden, addressing her anger, her loss, and her reactions (rational, i ...more
Ele Munjeli
Oct 19, 2009 Ele Munjeli rated it it was amazing
This book took so much balls to write: the main character is woman, writing about motherhood, and wifehood, yet it was written by a man. The protagonist is working class; but the author graduated from Oxford. Above all, it's an exploration of a hideous crime, and the personal losses consequent, though this event never happened. The strength of the book lies in its enormous imagination. London after May Day is achingly detailed, Orwellian, but authentic due to intimate observation with the absurd ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Brittany rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Cleave blew me away with his recent novel, Little Bee. I was excited to read the older Incendiary, yet I was deeply disappointed and disgusted. Yes, I finished the entire novel but only because I kept hoping that it was going to turn around and improve. It did not. With a promising beginning, I was immediately intrigued with the heroine of the story writing a letter to Osama Bin Laden blaming him for the deaths of her husband and son in a terrorist attack at a soccer match. However, as it went o ...more
Alex Csicsek
Aug 22, 2012 Alex Csicsek rated it it was amazing
How would London respond when faced with truly genuine fear? Written before the horrific events of 7/7, author Chris Cleave paints a dystopian picture of London as we know it in the aftermath of a horrific al-Qeada bombing where 1000 men, women, and children were blown to bits as they enjoyed a day out at an Arsenal match. The story is told through the eyes of an average working class East End woman who loses her husband and son in the attack. Incendiary is a profound story of unbearable loss, a ...more
Ken Deshaies
May 01, 2012 Ken Deshaies rated it it was amazing
"Incendiary" is one of the best books I've read - ever. I also read Cleave's "Little Bee", as engaging a book as you want to pick up. However, this is different, both in style and content. Told through the voice of a lower class woman in London who is writing a letter to Osama Bin Laden after her husband and son were killed (along with hundreds of others) in an al-Qaeda suicide bomb attack at a soccer match. At the very moment of the explosion, the woman is not only having sex on her living room ...more
Pat Herndon
Feb 19, 2013 Pat Herndon rated it liked it
I listened to the audiobook. The audiobook performance was superb, with the perfect reader to perform the material. I am sure that her reading enhanced my perception of the book...but. But, this plot line had some strange flaws in what I would otherwise describe as an excellent story. I read Little Bee and thought that it was an amazing work. Then I read Gold and thought, Chris Cleave does not understand female friendship. I was very pleased that this book was moving at an excellent pace..great ...more
Feb 18, 2009 N. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009, fiction
Ich hoffe schlichtweg, dass das englische Original eine bessere Sprache bietet.

Im Deutschen ist es jedenfalls recht vulgär/einfach. Auf der einen Seite sollte es so sein, um eine bessere Stimmung aufzubauen, auf der anderen Seite wird maßlos übertrieben.

Was sehr schade ist, ist dass der Autor wirklich gute Ideen und Ansätze hat, aber niemals in die Tiefe geht. Man hofft immer, dass noch mehr kommt.

Die Geschichte handelt von einer Frau, die bei einem Anschlag ihre Familie verliert. Und das ist
A gripping story. I don't know how Chris Cleave gets inside women's heads so well. A lot of WOMEN don't do it this well. Also shows a deep understanding of the lives and passions of the working class.

Side note: Cleave has a blog that is very good. No surprise.
What a book to read for someone who makes their living in the homeland security industry. "Incendiary" follows a widow following her husband's and son's death from a terrorist attack on London. Not only is it an insightful statement on an individual's grief for her family and nation, but it is also a poignant statement on that nation's grief. In many ways, we can look at the narrator's descent into madness as understandable, given her extreme losses. England, however, is made out like a just-cha ...more
Mar 02, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
I hate when I read a book that has an engaging protagonist, a compelling story, and an intriguing location, along with some awesome action and the author keeps you reading, rooting for the narrator and then....he RUINS it ALL during the last twenty pages. I won't do a spoiler alert by telling you HOW he wrecks it. All I will say is I only recommend the first 214 pages of the 237 page book. After that the whole things gets shot to hell. the story derails, crashes, burns, and just stinks.

I like th
Alex Norcross
Jun 24, 2010 Alex Norcross rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After 130 pages I decided to call it quits on this book. While the idea of a woman writing to the terrorist who engineered the deaths of her husband and son is intriguing, I found the protagonist unrealistic given the intellectual and moral gravity that the plot entails. It is entirely possible to make a character such as an unfaithful wife seem sympathetic and interesting, but I think Cleave misses the mark in this regard. Like many other novels that begin with tragedies, we as readers are thru ...more
Karen Germain
Apr 05, 2011 Karen Germain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having just finished Chris Cleave's second novel and loving it, I immediately went out to buy his first novel, "Incendiary." Overall, I found parts of the story to be a bit over the top and messy, but I still enjoyed the story. It's face paced and impossible to put down.

Although none of the characters is even remotely likeable, I still was still able to connect with them. This was the same case in his second novel, "Little Bee." Cleave has a way of making off putting characters, become accesible
"Incendiary" is a letter to Osama bin Laden written by a working class London woman who has lost her husband and son in a terror attack. In this confessional letter, the woman describes some of the events in her life prior to the attack as well as her interactions afterward. The nameless woman appears to unravel over the course of the book, as do many of the people around her and even the city of London itself.

The book was powerful, intense and well-written. I liked the fact that the main charac
Dec 20, 2013 Holly rated it really liked it
This book has mixed reviews and I can't imagine why. Some people didn't like the author's choice to leave out commas, even though this is part of the main character's personality. However, I listened to the audio version and the reader was tailor made for the part. I really thought Chris Cleave did a magnificent job of imagining the craziness involved in a terror attack and the aftershock. He nailed it so well for me that I had to look up the storyline details to see if it was based on a true st ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

An all-around stunning novel. Even if Incendiary hadn't eerily predicted the bombings on the London Tube (and hit British bookstores that same day), it would rank as one of this season's novels to be missed at your own peril (unless you're swearing by Michiko Kakutani, who deemed the book in poor taste). Cleave has mimicked the voice of a working-class woman with remarkable persuasiveness__though non-British readers may wallow in East End slang confusion. A formal journalist, he has brought an e

Feb 25, 2012 Kristen rated it it was ok
I would like to give this book 2.5 stars, but since I can't, I've decided to round it down to 2 stars.

The subject matter is incredibly depressing and there were several portions of the book that left me in tears... in public... on the subway. However, I did enjoy the "open letter" writing format and thought that it made the protagonist easier to relate to. As someone who lived and worked in NY during 9/11 I thought that it was an extremely realistic portrayal of someone going through an unfatho
Sep 19, 2015 April rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so I'm one of those people who read Little Bee before I read Incendiary, and I absolutely LOVED Little Bee. This just goes to show that two books by the same author aren't always going to please the same readers.

I was hoping that Incendiary would be as enjoyable as Little Bee. Especially after seeing some of the praise on the back of the book -- it won the 2006 Somerset Maugham award, it was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, etc.

But nope. The book is one long letter to
Aug 24, 2009 Karima rated it liked it
Got this book after reading Cleave's LITTLE BEE which blew me away. This one was a mere breeze.
INCENDIARY, Cleave's first novel, takes the form of a long, Dear Osama letter, written over four seasons by a lower middle class housewife whose husband and four-year-old son were killed in a fictional suicide bombing at a football game.
Definitely worth reading. I learned a lot about modern-day life in London but LITTLE BEE is SO much better. This gives me hope that this author is on an upward spiral
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Original Story and writing 1 13 Jul 09, 2013 03:40AM  
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Chris Cleave was born in London and spent his early years in Cameroon. He studied experimental psychology at Balliol College, Oxford. His debut novel, INCENDIARY, won a 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and is now a feature film. His second novel, LITTLE BEE, is a New York Times #1 bestseller with over 2 million copies in print. GOLD is his thir ...more
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“I am a woman built upon the wreckage of myself.” 37 likes
“You may think that's funny Osama but you never can squeeze every last bit of pride out of a human being. It's like a tube of toothpaste. You can twist it and you can crush it but there's always a tiny bit left isn't there?” 9 likes
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