Incendiary
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Incendiary

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3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  7,349 ratings  ·  1,258 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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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...more
Robert Beveridge
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...more
Jeanette (Most of My Favorite Authors Are Dead)
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...more
M
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...more
Gigi
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
Jessica
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
Sheila
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.

T...more
Rachelfm
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
Lénia
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...more
Alex Csicsek
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
"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
Will Byrnes
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...more
N.
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...more
Ele Munjeli
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
Bronwen
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.
Carmen
Feb 18, 2014 Carmen rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: fiction
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...more
Brittany
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
Jill
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
Alex Norcross
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
Pat Herndon
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
Jennyreadsexcessively
Oh, this is a tough one to rate. On the one hand, I liked the conceit of this novel: a woman loses her family to a terrorist attack and writes a letter to Osama bin Laden detailing her loss and subsequent decline. I also liked the writing voice that seemed authentic to a lower middle class undereducated Londoner. This excerpt from page 4 is especially keen after recent events:
"As for you, I know you'd stop the bombs in a second if I could make you see my son with all your heart for just one mom...more
Karen Hansen
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...more
K
"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...more
Holly
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

...more
Kristen
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...more
Karima
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...more
Heather
having read little bee last year, i didn't know what i was going into plot-wise but i thought i had a decent grasp on cleave's writing style. it turns out that he is far more flexible and talented as a writer than i had previously believed - in fact, this was his debut novel. this book is scary and sad and shook me to my core, leaving me with a lot to think about after i had turned the last page.
Jeff
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
Kats
'Incendiary', like no other book in quite some time, evoked a number of emotions in me that were often conflicting. Ranging from terrible sadness to furious anger all the way to many laughing out loud moments, this book is written in such a pure, original style that it was hard not to get sucked in. I no longer have the time nor the attention span to read for hours at a time, but I managed to read 'Incendiary' in just three sittings - it was an utterly compelling read.

Whilst the nameless protag...more
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Original Story and writing 1 7 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.” 27 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?” 7 likes
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