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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.

239 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Chris Cleave

19 books2,907 followers
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 third novel. He lives in London with his wife and three children. Chris Cleave enjoys dialogue with his readers and invites all comers to introduce themselves on Twitter; he can be found at twitter.com/chriscleave or on his website at http://www.chriscleave.com

Q & A

What was your favourite childhood book?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

Which book has made you laugh?

Great Lies to Tell Small Kids by Andy Riley

Which book has made you cry?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

What are your top five books of all time, in order or otherwise?

Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf)
Germinal (Zola)
Voyage au Bout de la Nuit (Céline)
The Road (McCarthy)
100 Years of Solitude (Garcia Márquez)

What is your favourite word?

"Nooba". It's a word peculiar to my family, although I can't remember where it came from or which of my kids coined it. To "do the nooba" is to muck around when you're supposed to be going to sleep. As in, "Stop doing the nooba, boo-boo, it's way past your bedtime." I like it because you can only say it with a smile.

Which fictional character would you most like to have met?

Sally Seton, Clarissa Dalloway's childhood companion, when we were all young.

Is there a particular book or author that inspired you to be a writer?

Definitely. In my teens it was Milan Kundera who made me realise how exciting it would be to write, and Primo Levi who made me realise how important it was, and Tibor Fischer who made me suspect the whole thing would be fun.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,791 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,290 reviews120k followers
May 21, 2020
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 increasing frequency and clarity as the story progresses.

Chris Cleave - from The Telegraph

Her life is complicated. She sees a well-to-do, but very confused and conflicted journalist who is smitten with her, then later a high-ranking cop with whom she works. She suffers an identity crisis, allowing herself to be re-shaped by others, trying on personae in attempting to figure out who she is after the trauma.

Second, Cleave wrote this novel in a six-week marathon after the 2004 Madrid bombings, but before the 2005 bombings in London. Part of what he presents is his vision of how the UK might respond if faced with a major terrorist attack. We can look back from 2020 to see what he might have missed and what he got right.
It’s an ugly war and there’s no honour in it. But we will win because we have to. It’s a war we win by ditching our principles. By interning people who are high risk. By listening to private phone calls.
The narrator offers counterpoints with sympathy for the Muslims she knows, hard-working people like herself, a danger to no one.

Third is Cleave’s portrayal of class in Britain. The book is filled with the tension of working-class people in almost alien worlds alongside their own. Examples abound
Tessa comes with rather a lot of baggage. Breeding. Family money. The people who have it aren’t like you and me. They’ll be polite enough to you. But try to get too close and they’ll put back the distance. Try to step inside their circle and they’ll close ranks. Us and them are not the same species. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Don’t ever get involved with the upper classes.
While Cleave shines a bright light on class differences, he takes pains not to idealize anyone. London, post attack, puts up barrage balloons around the city, familiar from World War II, useful for forcing incoming aircraft to higher altitudes, their steel cables a disincentive to low-level flight. The balloons in this story bear the images of people lost in what is called the May Day attack.
They hadn’t chosen very nice people for the balloons round Hyde Park anyway. The faces were mostly fat blokes who looked like they could tuck the pints away. They were the sort of blokes who’d call each other by nicknames like oi Baz and oi Todger, and you could imagine them pinching your bum at a New Year’s Eve party. Saying How about it darling? It was funny seeing those dead fat blokes 500 feet up in the air saving us from kamikazes. It might have been the first decent thing they’d done in their lives most of them.
There is a shortage of punctuation in the novel. It enhances Cleave’s characterization of his narrator as a less than well-educated person. He even notes it, with a nod and a wink, when she is looking at a job possibility with the police.
You might need to type up incident reports from time to time. They read like SUSPECT WAS APPREHENDED AT 0630 WIELDING A SHARPENED SPOON. That stuff needs commas like Covent Garden needs a gardener. Anyway we’re not writing literature here. We’re trying to stop people bombing people.
The story takes place over the course of a year, with book sections for each of the seasons, as the narrator comes through a full cycle of change to arrive where she does at the end. The format is of a sort of epistolary novel. The narrator does not actually write letters to Osama bin Laden, but speaks as if she were, addressing him throughout her tale, decrying his actions, particularly sharing her pain at the loss of her son.

This is a very engaging story. I was hooked from the first, and read it quite fast. I truly felt for this wounded mother. How would I feel if my mate and one or all of my children had been taken away so harshly? There are times in the book when one would be well-advised to keep the Kleenex handy. And there are others when Cleave gives us reason to laugh out loud. I have one significant gripe with the book. I thought Cleave went way too far with his ending. It seemed forced to me. But that aside, the journey, which makes up the bulk here, is very well worth the time.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,898 followers
December 20, 2009
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 repeated ad nauseum. Her husband and son were killed in a London terrorist attack, and she has to tell you again and again that her son was "4 years and 3 months old." Like that...
The East End slang totally lost me. Include a glossary, for pity's sake. I don't want to jump up and visit urban dictionary every time I read something like "on the khazi." WTF? I now know that "khazi" is British slang for toilet. That's what I got from the book.

If you liked Little Bee, don't assume you'll like Incendiary. Thass all ah'm sayin'.
Profile Image for Lance Greenfield.
Author 122 books234 followers
April 20, 2019
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 punctuation is appalling, but it is totally in context. She relates, to Osama, all of the events and all of her feelings from immediately before the atrocity to many months afterwards.

There is a lot of humour interspersed throughout the tragedy. One of the funniest passages that I have read recently will not spoil your enjoyment of this book.

It didn’t smell posh in Harvey Nichols it smelled of all the different perfumes in the world very strong and mixed up together. It felt like having your throat scraped. I took my boy into John Lewis once and it smelled just like that in the perfume section. Yuk Mummy he said. It smells nice and nasty all at once. It smells of angels' feet.


I can understand why some people do not like this style of writing and cannot get into the book at all. This is a book that you will either love or hate. It is either one star or five stars plus plus. I cannot tell what it will be like for you, but I would recommend that you give it a chance. For me, it was one of the best books that I read in 2009.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,940 reviews722 followers
July 26, 2019
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 can operate after such a loss. He has made it real again, though he does change the location, he does not change the way humanity reacts to the taking of innocent lives. Eerily true to life this book was released on the same day of the London bombings.

I see many have hated this book. I think it is a scary, scary book, one that smacks the reader right in the headlights with the realism that terrorism in all its forms makes us into the kind of humans we were never destined to be, it causes women to lose husbands and sons, men to lose mothers and wives, and children, poor children to lose their innocence.

While the conclusion of the book is unnerving, the understanding that there might be one sliver of goodness in a terrorist's heart may be its most redeeming quality. Can we ever forget or forgive those who have wantonly killed innocents because of their cause? Can the Bin Ladens of the world ever be more than the most despised people by those whose lives they have taken away? Can a mother ever forget this loss of her child? Can we as humans ever go beyond hate?
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,342 reviews115 followers
June 4, 2020
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. And I want to say it's sad and it is but in a funny way. Each time I put it down I wanted to pick it up again and continue reading. Strangely compelling.
Profile Image for Robert Beveridge.
2,402 reviews149 followers
January 23, 2008
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 every word: how does one regain one's own sanity when the entire world has gone crazy?

The first, and perhaps biggest, thing to note here is that, as it's written as a letter, the entire book is in the voice of the protagonist, who is not terribly well-educated and eschews the use of commas. Twenty-five pages into this book, I was sure I was going to offer it up as a sacrifice to the gods of reading by lighting it on fire and tossing it into a random trash can, but I got used to the narrative style pretty quickly after that. Once you've fallen into the rhythm of the prose, the story itself is gripping-- our narrator is trying to get on with her life, just as England is, and the two are often compared to one another between the lines as a measuring stick, making sure we've got the idea in the back of our heads that the end of the book is a given. (And Cleave doesn't fail us, though we don't get exactly what we think we're going to.) A startling, and excellent, piece of work, this. ****
799 reviews137 followers
September 20, 2012
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 whole time I am reading I am distracted by the 'oh wait, right, this is a terror victim's letter to Osama (yank those heart strings! Yank yank!) so I better slap in the name Osama where it is least relevant so as to remind you folks at home that that is my gimmick! Smooth, Cleave.

Which brings me to:

2. Yanking heart strings novels.

This falls into the category alongside Books About Kids With Cancer and Other Bad Diseases, Books About the Holocaust, and Books About Orphans. It's cheap, just like having a really long letter as your format. So of course how could I not feel for a woman who lost her son and husband to a senseless bombing, right? Except when the author tries REALLY REALLY hard to get you to feel that by employing all kinds of tricks. Also she was REALLY not likable. Which brings me to:

3. Remembering that you need your characters to be multi dimensional so you add in some random not so ok behavior so you can pat yourself on the back.

Said character has attitude, and not in a charming way. She represents the working class in London and you can all feel offended by this representation. Her smart mouth was annoying and her love for her family felt as forced as the times she did not feel that love, all the more dwarfed by the Big Catastrophe which brings me to:

4. Books that Ride on the Coat Tails of Actual Tragedies so as to Beef Up Their Lousy Rendition of Same.

Hello, Cleave? 9/11 called. It wants its sanctity back.
He basically rips off the smoke and chaos of a real act of terror and attempts to draw upon that in his stupid football game bombing, and not only does it feel cheap and wrong, but he then turns this event (based on an actual event) into something resembling satire (ok yeah THAT'S a great idea) as in, "Oh we can't be having Muslims working, even the ones who aren't religious. Well we can have the cab drivers but not anyone who might fly a plane." It's hard to put it exactly but as I was reading the "unraveling of London" as based on NYC part, it kept feeling like the lady in The Help who really, really wanted you to see how wrong everyone else was by exaggerating everything. I am not saying Muslims didn't get a lot of unfair backlash but I am saying that truth needs to read as truth, not your agenda driven attempt at getting me to react to something.
I read about as much of this as I could, and at that point it was not only offensive but actually ridiculous with characters who were over the top such that nothing could be taken seriously. MOVING ON.
Profile Image for Gigi.
37 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2010
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. temporary obsession is more apt. basically you meet the protagonist in a waking sleep and a few chapters later, you are hurled into a dark, painfully uncomfortable downward spiral. one that starts with a stunning description of terrorism, muggy infidelity, charred flesh and limbs that are blown apart in slo-motion and continues with a guilt that drowns you and a loneliness that picks through your dry bones. i won't go into the plot because it's already listed, but i will say that incendiary will make you hold your loved ones tight.
Profile Image for Jess.
98 reviews
August 9, 2011
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's trying. But Cleave? How can I help but no roll my eyes. It wasn't believable. And in an age where terrorism is so real, this all just felt like some poorly feigned disaster.
Besides for the story feeling incredibly fake, I also had a problem with the story's structure. This woman is drafting a note to Osama Bin Laden, and surely has never used a punctuation mark other than a period in her life. While some stories can benefit from a character's unique linguistic style, this was just distracting. And couldn't help but make me think- lazy.
Now the overall concept was nice. Terrorism, loss, survival. I liked that aspect. I also really liked the character's guilt for the affair she was having while her family was dying- I wish that could have been played out more.
I think this book failed at what it tried to be. The concept had potential, but its execution was terrible.
Profile Image for Peter.
592 reviews82 followers
January 6, 2022
"That is the nature of this madness. It fills the sky with barrage balloons and people's eyes with hate."

Incendiary is, at least nominally an epistolary novel. An unnamed working-class woman living in London is writing a letter to Osama bin Laden after her husband and young son, along with a thousand other people, are killed in a "9-11"-type terrorist attack at a Premiership football match. The letter writer watched the mayhem unfold live on the television whilst a neighbour, a man that she barely knew, was busy having sex with her. Not surprisingly, the woman is deeply affected by the deaths, not only does she feel sorrow she also feels guilty and is looking for some sort of catharsis.

The book is divided into four parts, one for each of the four seasons. It turns out she only began writing to Osama in 'Winter', but she tells her story chronologically, beginning in 'Spring'.

This book takes reader on a wild journey of satire. The narrator is far from a perfect wife and mother. She is tidy, but gets nervous when her bomb-disposal husband is called out on a shout and she leaves her four year old son home alone whilst she goes out seeking comfort in the arms of other men.

I loved the first half of this book. I found the woman's emotions raw and touching. Cleave wonderfully evokes not only the horror of the actual event but the knee-jerk responses that the authorities make on civil liberties after the event to supposedly deter further attacks.

Unfortunately this strong start is let down by the second half when it suddenly becomes more about class; a tale of manipulative toffs exploiting an uncultured innocent. I found yuppie Jasper and his equally posh girlfriend Petra, both of them journalists for the Sunday Telegraph, so poorly drawn that they never rose to become anything other than cliches. Worst of all Osama, the person that is supposedly being addressed in the letter, largely disappears for long stretches. Consequently the book becomes less about terrorism and the toll it takes on individuals and more about class conflict in modern Britain.

For a novel about terrorism there is very little suspense. Cleave shows a nice touch when a nurse is suspended from her job because she is a Muslim and therefore might pose a security risk but he doesn't follow it through. Likewise when the narrator learns that the authorities knew about 'May Day' attack beforehand but chose let it happen anyway Cleave seems to have no idea how to exploit it fully. In the age of the internet and video streaming the idea that people would take such explosive information to the papers where it can easily be suppressed is frankly ridiculous.

That said and done some of the writing is really good, I found the woman's voice mesmerizing and I continually turned the page to see what would happen next. However I do think that this is a book of two halves, Cleave either got his thinking muddled or simply ran out of ideas perhaps. This book could have been about grief and people's ability to survive devastating loss or been a really conspiracy theory, dystopian loaded novel but does neither. In the end Cleave backs the wrong horse in class. A great opportunity missed IMHO.
Profile Image for Valeria Schimizzi .
80 reviews76 followers
January 5, 2021
Тази история направо ми отвя главата! Романът е едно дълго писмо към Осама бин Ладен от млада жена от работническата класа, която губи съпруга си и малкия си син в терористичен атентат в Лондон. Крис Клийв започва да пише "Възпламеняване" след бомбените атаки в Мадрид през 2004 година. За съжаление оттогава насам темата става все по-актуална. И въпреки че повечето хора успяват да забравят новинарските заглавия след време, за близките на жертвите животът никога повече не е същият. Как се чувстват те, можем само да си представяме. Или да прочетем тази книга и да усетим с цялото си същество гнева, който е просмукан във всяка една клетка и силата, която трябва да намериш в себе си, за да продължиш напред. Защото за оцелелите животът продължава. И както казва главната героиня: "Убий ме с бомбите си, копеленце нещастно, и аз сама ще построя отново себе си още по-силна. Твърде глупава съм, за да направя друго. Аз съм жена, издигната върху останките от себе си."
Profile Image for Shane.
Author 11 books250 followers
April 15, 2018
A chilling debut novel presented in an unfamiliar epistolary format: a letter to Osama bin Laden by one of his victims, narrated to read like a first person novel.

Our unknown narrator is a working class woman whose husband is a policeman in the bomb disposal unit. She is highly strung and suffers OCD due to the pressures of her husband’s job. Her remedy for nerves is extra marital sex, whenever and wherever she can find it, while hubby is away diffusing bombs at all hours of the night. She falls in with Jasper, an upper-class journalist who is engaged to Petra, a dead ringer for our narrator in looks, but a ruthlessly ambition journalist in her own right. While our narrator is engaged in hard core sex with Jasper in her living room one afternoon, the blaring TV reveals the blowing up of the nearby stadium where her husband and four-year year-old son are attending the much heralded Arsenal-Chelsea soccer match. The guilt and the loss of loved ones during her act of transgression will never leave her. Nor does it seem to leave other Londoners exposed to the explosion. Everyone starts behaving badly. Rich boys take to cocaine, rich girls go shopping, and poor girls just try to get on with it, although they start seeing their dead relatives everywhere.

Our narrator, in her grieving and addled state, next takes up with a police superintendent who was her dead husband’s boss, and finds out that the explosion was a known one to the authorities, but it was allowed to happen in order to avert a much larger act of terrorism in London; preventing the soccer match explosion would have prematurely sent the perpetrators into hiding. This discovery leads to many conflicted emotions in our narrator: a sense of betrayal by her country’s politicians, a sense of revulsion towards her new lover, and a craving for revenge to release the little ghost of the four-year old boy who is now following her everywhere. Things come to a head when Petra acts in her own self-centred way, and the cocaine-riddled Jasper decides to take matters into his shaky hands.

The book is full of irony: the narrator’s sexual climax coming just as the stadium explodes; the husband planning to transfer out of the bomb squad only to go out the day before to a soccer match and be killed by a bomb; the narrator falling in love with the superintendent only to find out that he has “known” all along; the narrator aspiring for Petra’s social standing as much as Petra seeks to emulate the narrator in order to win Jasper’s affections; a bomb scare leading to deaths caused by various factors other than the exploding of bombs themselves; the blatant fact that civilized London and its denizens are no more civilized than the desert-hiding Osama and his gang—it only takes a bomb and the breakdown of social order to reveal the similarities between the two civilizations.

The style is epistolary and conversational: the narrator is having a conversation with Osama throughout the narrative. She doesn’t hate him for what he has done to her family, but sees a kinship with him through her loss. In fact, she would like to live with Osama. She is a representation of London: “a city built on the wreckage of itself, too ignorant to know when it is finished.” All that said, it is hard to ignore the stark madness that these acts of terrorism reduce civilized society to, and our raving lunatic of a narrator remains a good example of that.

Profile Image for Sheila.
Author 78 books181 followers
March 11, 2010
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.

The novel starts as a letter: “Dear Osama.” But the correspondent’s no great politician, no stop-at-nothing soldier or truth-telling journalist, not even priest or a cleric, but rather a very ordinary Londoner mourning her dead boy and telling her tale.

And what a tale. Incendiary is haunting, mesmerizing even. Yet, despite its topic, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. When a neighbor in the high-class Wellington Estate tells the woman he thinks she’s “very real,” she responds that no-one’s ever said that before, probably because they thought it so “bleeding obvious.” But all the characters in this novel are heart-breakingly real, even Mr. Rabbit whose constant presence haunts and holds it together.

Of course, I’m English. There are places and names that I know as I sink into my chair and into the tale. I’m comfortable. I recognize this voice. But suddenly that quiet world falls spectacularly and totally apart. The author goes where others might justifiably fear to tread and creates something powerfully terrifying and horribly plausible.

Betrayal is such a simple word. We use it in so many ways. But one betrayal does not equal another, and Chris Cleave’s novel has a depth and honesty that leaves the reader crying, not just for the dead boy, but for all the hopes and dreams that die in everyday betrayals, and for a world that might well be all too real, but really can’t be trusted.

Incendiary is a masterpiece, just like Little Bee, and highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ammara Abid.
205 reviews139 followers
December 25, 2017
One-sitting read!

Very unique plot!
A woman talking with Osama bin Ladin before & after the death of her husband and son and blaming him for the London attack but the reality was something else. She keep on discussing afterwards each event of her life with him.

I have mixed feelings regarding this book. ahhh Amazing some parts while few things are repeatedly discussed which bored me.
All & all very different and interesting book.
Profile Image for Tsvetelina Mareva.
249 reviews74 followers
May 26, 2019
"Възпламеняване" беше остър завой по читателския ми маршрут - нещо като импулсивна отбивка от зоната ми на комфорт, но се превърна в един от най-впечатляващите романи, които съм чела.
Този роман въздейства едновременно озлобяващо, но и смиряващо и отрезвяващо. Езикът на Клийв е суров, жилав, сепващ, жив и пулсиращ.

"Възпламеняване" е зловещ пророчески роман, сбъдната антиутопия (в деня, когато излиза от печат, Лондон е разтресен от терористични атаки), в който една майка, загубила мъжа и детето си заради терористична атака на футболен стадион, излива цялата насъбрана г��рчилка в писмо не до кого да е, а до самия Осама бин Ладен.

Но ако очаквате, че това ще е поредната история за "добрите и лошите", за прекрасното семейство, разбито от злото, от голямата неправда и трагедия, това не е вашата книга. Защото в нея "добрите" просто отсъстват. Тази книга представя човека в цялата палитра от нюанси на емоциите, погрешните избори, спонтанните решения и необясними проявления.

Показва също така едно зловещо, деформирано лице на Лондон, което се крие под цивилизационното було на вековно лицемерие, снобски порядки и класови бездни. В главата ми изникна образът от старите филми на един потънал в кал, локви и тежко зловоние град, из който сноват плъхове и бързо се шмугват из канализационните шахти.

Усещането за безнадеждност се усилва от челния сблъсък с истината за терористичните атаки и хората, които се борят срещу тях. Колко струва всъщност човешкият живот? Оправдани ли са хиляда жертви, ако евентуално след това стотици хиляди могат да бъдат спасени? Кой решава това и как се живее с такова решение?

Изключително майсторско изграждане на основните персонажи от Крис Клийв. Толкова плътно и убедително представяне на човешки характери и поведение от доста време не бях срещала в роман.

Майката е неназована за разлика от другите основни персонажи. Нейната болка е събирателно на всички, изпитващи вината на "останалия жив", чийто живот е разбит на парченца също както труповете на жертвите от кървавия атентат. В епистоларна форма тя разказва живота си - за женското си объркване и неудовлетвореност от трудния всекидневен живот; от неравните възможности между различните класи в Лондон; от битовизма, който задушава в хватката си и най-добрия брак; от вечното чакане на мъжа си от нощни смени; от сблъсъка с неговата пристрастеност към хазарта и постоянна умора, прерастваща в апатия и отчуждение; от лъча светлина, даряван ѝ от малкото ѝ момченце, гушнало своя плюшен заек, който остава единственото ѝ спасително въже сред самотата.

И тогава изведнъж идва оня момент на слабост и уязвимост, когато за миг изпускаш коловоза и кривваш встрани, а после връщане назад няма. Откриваш измамно обещание за ласка, топлина, внимание и всъщност просто една обикновена нормалност в отношенията, която толкова ти е липсвала, и просто ѝ се отдаваш. Това се случва на стотици хора всеки ден. Какво толкова зло и непоправимо може да донесе? И в същия този миг, в който мимолетната забрава те откъсва от нащърбената реалност с нейните остри ръбове, се случва необратимото, след което вече никога няма да си същият, но ще трябва да се научиш да живееш с него, въпреки него и заради него. Защото ще се окаже, че именно то те е научило да живееш истински, да дишаш с пълна гръд, да узрееш за истината и да се справиш с нея, и най-вече да си простиш и да опиташ отново!

Прочетете този роман на Крис Клийв! Книгата е тежка, трудна и болезнено откровена, но се чете леко и увлича така, че не можете да я оставите, въпреки че на места наистина ви се иска буквално да я захвърлите от омерзение.
В това е истинското майсторство на Клийв и на безупречния превод на Невена Дишлиева-Кръстева! Поредното заглавие в каталога на ICU, издържано на всички нива!

"Преди да взривиш момченцето ми Осама винаги съм си мислела че експлозията е еднократен акт но вече знам. Отвън пламъкът угасва много бързо но огънят пропълзява вътре в теб и трясъкът остава да кънти завинаги. Колкото и да си запушваш ушите с длани никога няма да го заглушиш. Пожарът продължава да бушува с невъобразим грохот и настървение. А най-странното е че до теб в метрото може да стоят хора и да не чуят нищичко. Живея в пъкъла и треперя от студ Осама. Този живот е оглушителен грохот но я се заслушай. Ще чуеш как пада карфица."

"Може да ти се струва смешно Осама но да знаеш че няма как да изцедиш и последната капка гордост от човек. Гордостта е като паста за зъби. Може да смачкаш тубичката но вътре винаги остава малко нали така?"

(Целият роман е написан без запетаи. Според мен, от една страна, като белег за това, че главната героиня е средностатистическа майка от работническата класа, не особено грамотна, а от друга - за да звучи наративът като безкраен низ от болка, мъка и гняв, в който нямаш време и сили да спреш и да си поемеш въздух.)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,155 reviews1,610 followers
February 24, 2011
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 London soccer stadium, vaporizing over one thousand people – your husband and son among them. How do you go on? How do you live with the remorse?

Chris Cleave explores that question in an epistolary structure; the nameless woman writes a letter to Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the attack. The epistolary form is used with caution as a framing device (Nicole Krauss’s The Great House and Moshid Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist come to mind), because it is not easy to pull off. The reader is a fly-on-the-wall and can choose to connect with the narrator – or not. And if truth be known, Mr. Cleave is not entirely successful in his narrative control as the conceit of writing to Osama begins to wear thin.

What he is successful with is developing a fragile persona – an obsessive woman who is gradually unraveling as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder and who is quickly spiraling downward. The anonymity of the character makes her everywoman, trying to survive in a post-terrorist world. The woman writes, “Before you bombed my boy Osama I always through an explosion was such a quick thing but now I know better. The flash is over very fast but the fire catches hold inside you and the noise never stops…I live in an inferno where you could shiver with cold Osama. This life is a deafening roar but listen. You could hear a pin drop.”

The bombing and PSTD, though, is only the beginning. London is quickly transformed into a virtual occupied territory as the woman fights her own inward battles. She is drawn into a psychological maelstrom with Jasper and his fiancée, Petra, an upper-class fashion journalist who happens to resemble her closely.

Indeed, Petra and the narrator may very well represent two parts of London, which is described as “a smiling liar his front teeth are very nice but you can smell his back teeth rotten and stinking.” Each cannot exist without the other. And so they enter a danse-a-deux of symbiosis and betrayal. Eventually, the novel veers toward a stunning denouement and an over-the-top ending.

It’s extraordinary ambitious for a first-time novelist (this book was written before Chris Cleave’s more well-known Little Bee) and sometimes the prose comes across as rather self-congratulatory or forced. Mr. Cleave’s intention, it seems, is to portray a decadent Western society that struggles to break free of its class distinctions – without success, setting itself up as something to tear down. Yet at the core of the novel, there is an emotional void. The characters are not quite satirical, yet not quite real. And as a result of the epistolary form, we, as readers, are held at arm’s length, not quite embracing them.

This often disturbing, sometimes macabre novel has its own intriguing history. The morning after its initial launch party, in July 0f 2005, three suicide bombers detonated their devices in the London Underground. The book tour was shelves and the novel was temporarily withdrawn from sale by many UK retailers. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. And in Chris Cleave’s world, fiction is very strange indeed. (2.5)
Profile Image for Temz.
275 reviews240 followers
November 20, 2018
Това е от онези моменти, в които знам, че мога и по-добре.
Познавам Крис Клийв. Правила съм с него едно много дълго интервю, което премина в приятелски разговор за музика, книги и пътувания. Разменяла съм мейли.
Помня добротата, която този човек излъчваше при първия ни разговор.
И сега съм шокирана. Защото усетих гнева му. И всичко казано ми е малко.
Защото „Възпламеняване“ (изд. ICU - publishing, translation, scouting, 2018 г.; превод: Невена Дишлиева-Кръстева) не е „Другата ръка“. В този предстоящ за българската публика роман няма нищо от онази мекота, която дремеше в очите на онзи човек, усмихващ ми се през скайп.
Защото "Възпламеняване" е ръбат роман. Защото стъпва директно върху забития в сърцето на съвременната цивилизация трън – тероризма. И то не заради обръщението "Скъпи Осама".

Текстът на Клийв представлява откровено и лично писмо към Осама бин Ладен, написано от млада жена от работническата класа, чийто съпруг и четиригодишен син загиват в атентат по време на футболна среща.

"Ти нарани Лондон, Осама, но не го унищожи и никога няма да успееш. Лондон е като мен - твърде мизерeн бедняк и невежа, за да осъзнае кога са го унищожили. Онази сутрин, когато погледнах към изгряващото слънце между доковете, знаех със сигурност. Аз съм Лондон, Осама, аз съм целият свят. Убий ме с бомбите си, копеленце нещастно, и аз сама ще построя отново себе си още по-силна. Твърде глупава съм, за да направя друго. Аз съм жена, издигната върху останкит�� от себе си. Гледах надолу към ширналия се под мен Лондон в онази сутрин и знаехм че е време и аз да сляза там."

Готови ли сте за този роман? Най-вероятно не. Нужен ли е? Толкова, колкото въздуха в град, който не гори... Само не зная има ли още такъв.

Още тук: https://knijno.blogspot.com/2018/11/b...

Profile Image for Carmen.
2,050 reviews1,834 followers
April 29, 2015
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 woman is flawed. She's not some perfect grieving widow and mother. Everyone in the book is flawed - and therefore three-dimensional and real. My heart was bleeding not only for her but for all the messed-up, suffering characters in this book who are just trying to get through life day by day. This book hits you where it hurts. It grabs you and doesn't let go.

It's worth mentioning that there was no disconnect for me re: a male writing from a female's perspective. Cleave did a great job of getting inside a female mind and I had no problems believing it. Points to Cleave for that.

"You've hurt London Osama but you haven't finished it you never will. London's like me it's too piss poor and ignorant to know when it's finished. That morning when I looked at the sun rising through the docklands I knew it for sure. I am London Osama I am the whole world. Murder me with your bombs you poor lonely sod I will only build myself again and stronger. I am too stupid to know better I am a woman built on the wreckage of myself."
Profile Image for Knigoqdec.
923 reviews147 followers
June 30, 2020
"...винаги съм си мислела че експлозията е еднократен акт но вече знам. Отвън пламъкът угасва много бързо но огънят пропълзява вътре в теб и трясъкът остава да кънти завинаги. Колкото и да си запушваш ушите с длани никога няма да го заглушиш. Пожарът продължава да бушува с невъобразим грохот и настървение..... Този живот е оглушителен грохот но я се заслушай. Ще чуеш как пада карфица."
Profile Image for Alja Katuin.
368 reviews28 followers
March 21, 2017
Wat een hel om dit te lezen.. Weinig gebruik van leestekens, waardoor je soms 10 keer over een zin heen moet. Het had zo'n interessant verhaal kunnen zijn, maar dit is er eentje waarbij men niet er uit haalt wat er in zit.

Niet lezen, zonde van je tijd.
Profile Image for Vasko Genev.
304 reviews63 followers
June 7, 2019
Част от предговора:

Междувременно пропастта между бедните и богатите в Лондон се увеличаваше, най-вече благодарение на напълно обезумелия финансов сектор, който облагодетелстваше едно безпардонно малцинство,а сметката в крайна сметка щеше да се стовари върху излъганото мнозинство.
Написах Възпламеняване за шест седмици на едно таванче с бюро и кафеварка, почти без да го напускам, докато не завърших ръкописа.

Усети се, че е книгата е написана с един силен порив. Какви запетайки? Разбира се, че ги няма. И по-добре.

В началото си мислех "леле, колко наивно започва". Писмо до Осама..., но съвсем скоро се оказа, че това писмо е до Агресията, до Жестокостта, които са във всеки един от нас и навсякъде. Насилието по света е свързано точно както са свързани моретата в Световния океан... Писмото е до всичко, което е Осама.

Разказ-писмо на жена, най-обикновена - от средната класа. Огромна трагедия, която застига и нейното семейство. История съвсем възможна и днес. Няма да разказвам книгата.

Постепенно набираше сила, постепенно влизаше под кожата. Заплеснат в случващото се не усетих в кой момент точно, но сякаш в едното ми ухо чувах ДеЛило а в другото Пинчън (от "На ръба на света", но в съвсем поносима доза - само по същество... - за атентата..., за ужаса ...). Странна амалгама.

Историята се заплиташе, жената едвам удържаше контрол над случващото се. Не съм очаквал, че напрежението така неусетно се е натрупало. Странно, то ескалира в привидно незначителен момент. В Харви Никълс, когато ТЯ се видя в огледалото, облечена в луксозните дрехи. Последва пауза: Дълго време стояхме и гледахме новото ми аз., и след паузата - психическа експлозия! Изключително емоционален момент и за мен, нямам обяснение защо точно тогава?!

... винаги съм си мислела че експлозията е еднократен акт но вече знам. Отвън пламакът угасва много бързо но огънят пропълзява вътре в теб и трясъкът остава да кънти завинаги. Колкото и да си запушваш ушите с длани никога ням�� да го заглушиш. Пожарът продължава да бушува с невъобразим грохот и настървение. А най-странното е че до теб в метрото може да седят хора и да не чуят нищичко. Живея в пъкъла и треперя от студ Осама. Този живот е оглушителен грохот но я се заслушай. Ще чуеш как пада карфица.

След като книгата свърши осъзнах, че никъде не съм срещнал най-важните имена - тези на майката, детето, бащата!

Те бяха: "Аз съм майка ...", "Мъжът ми", "Моето момченце" и "Господин Заек".
Profile Image for Lénia.
Author 1 book461 followers
May 22, 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 fácil abandonarmo-nos daquilo que escrevemos. Chris Cleave faz isso com magistral talento.

Este livro conta a história de uma mulher que perdeu o marido e o filho num ataque bombista da Al Qaeda. Vamos conhecendo a história deles à medida que ela escreve a carta a Bin Laden. Vamos também conhecendo a fundo esta mulher, as suas qualidades, as suas fraquezas, as suas falhas. Dei por mim a conseguir ouvi-la falar. Senti uma empatia enorme com este mulher que não tem nada que ver com o estereótipo da heroína a quem é arrancada a vida que tinha. Ela é uma mulher de carne e osso, real, com uma humanidade incrível. Até hoje, poucas foram as personagens de quem posso dizer o mesmo. Curiosamente, quase todas as que conheço assim saíram da "pena" de Chris Cleave.

Li este livro de um fôlego (demorei dois serões a lê-lo). Não consegui largá-lo, colou-se a mim sem me dar escapatória. Queria mesmo saber o que tinha acontecido, como é que ela sobreviveu àquelas duas pessoas que eram o centro do seu mundo. E, à medida que o livro avança, vamos percebendo que a dor continua a crescer, que o sufoco aumenta, que o cerco se aperta. Para mim, é um livro a revisitar de vez em quando. Imperdível...
Profile Image for Johara .
309 reviews26 followers
December 15, 2020
[3.5] Another masterpiece by my favorite author Chris Cleave... another book that talks about the deep emotions of trauma and the implications of the aftereffect.

What makes his books special is that he keeps you engaged, he lets you read without stopping, and he makes you connect with the characters in different depth. I won't say that this is his best work, but I still enjoy his books.
Profile Image for Alex Csicsek.
78 reviews4 followers
August 22, 2012
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, and the sensitive yet unsoppy portrayal of a woman who loses her son in such conditions is a magnificent achievement in itself. But what I found most engaging was how the character navigates her way through the remade London which emerges from the ashes of the attack. It's a bleak London where life carries on but only under a debilitating blanket of fear - and it's all the more bleak because it rings so very true.

This book imagines how both the government and the public would respond to such a devastating attack. The scenario is one of lock-down, in which the government loses all trust in the public and people have no faith in one another. Some of the Orwellian government measures do seem a bit far-festched, particuarly internment of Muslims, but others like increased surveillance and curfews, are not just within the realm of possibility but have actually been implemented by this and the previous government.

The most disturbing aspect is the treatment of people by one another. Yes, there is an element of stiff upper lip, but lips become so stiff that mouths aren't used to talk with others. Most people retreat into isolated lives carried out alone or with families in flats, experiencing the outside world only through television.

There is an amazing scene near the end when, faced with the threat of another imminent attack, 'the panic' takes hold. It is a slow descent into utter chaos, where people not only ignore pleas for help from their fellow Londoners but have no qualms about pushing others out of the way to save themselves. It shows what happens when the slow-burning, pent-up fear of life under the threat of terrorism suddenly erupts, and it's not a pretty sight.

Cleave is right: today's Brits are not the self-same people who, faced with a blitz of aerial bombardment in the second world war, kept calm and carried on. 70 years of convenience, of cheap fatty foods and evening spent relaxing on sofas in front of mindless television, have done much to diminish that. One factor is the early disintegration of genuine communities, where neighbours are only people who happen to live near one another as opposed to united people making their lives together in a shared space. Mid-20th century Britain was a tough, sturdy nation - that strength has melted away into fat, and it's a depressing thought how this new sort of nation would respond under similar threat.

That's what makes Cleave's book such a fantastic read: it demonstrates a deep and intimate understanding of modern Britain, and shows how that character would respond under extreme circumstances.

Beyond the bounds of the book, however, are glimmers of a less depressing interpretation. When a real terrorist attack hit London (coincidentally on the same day Incendiary was published), although government pushed ahead with its programme to dismantle civil liberties, the people themselves did not respond with the lock-down mentality Cleave portrays. And when London descended into riots last summer, the real crowds on the streets - the true majority in every sense of the meaning - were those who came out afterwards with brooms and bins, determined to clean up their streets and reclaim their communities. Cleave has put his finger on a very real strain of the British character, but it's not the only real strain, and there is reason to believe the dystopian London of distrust and fear he paints does not lurk beneath the surface after all.

Let's just hope we never have to find out.
Profile Image for Rachelfm.
414 reviews
September 8, 2011
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, intoxicated, or otherwise) as she watches her city become a high-surveillance police state and she tries to deal with a bottomless crater in her heart.

There is dark humor and a masterly use of cultural touchstones and daily details that really transport the reader to this average life. The smell of the flat, the shopping for treats for a child, a boy's handmade bedroom are vivid against the explosive backdrop of this tragedy were almost too vivid and too poignant and I found myself unable to actually keep reading if my kids were in the room playing. The description of the sleeping boy smelling of tigers and angels.

One of the things I really appreciated about this book and felt was most eye-opening was how much time Cleave spent exploring the class divide, and how the winners continue to win, even in a terror attack. There was great tension between the reactions of those personally benefitting from the brave new world and those grieving the old one.

Chris Cleave came to our branch library in Seattle for a talk I attended this spring and he talked about how he wanted his novels to be a jumping-off place for discussion about the hard questions in our lives today: freedom vs. security, retribution, and the value of a life. His first novel certainly accomplishes this. Because the book was released simultaneously with the London bombings, the work was too uncomfortably raw and the fiction was eclipsed by reality. Approaching the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I found this struck the right tone for me to really reflect, remember, and develop a new empathy for those who have lost loved ones to terrorism.
Profile Image for Ken Deshaies.
122 reviews9 followers
May 2, 2012
"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 sofa with a local reporter she'd only recently met, but was also watching the match on TV and saw the explosion happen.

Her successes and failures at dealing with that tragedy are visceral and real. You are inside her head always, and can easily sympathize with her reactions to situations. Cleave's ability to speak as a woman is extraordinary and makes even the male reader understand her reactions. Of course, she not only has to deal with the death of her two family members, but also with severe living restrictions put in place by the British and London governments following the attack. Just as the specter of 9-11 in America changed how we live in many ways, terrorism in London has had a similar, but perhaps more drastic affect on life there.

It's truly a remarkable book, and I strongly encourage you to get it today. You won't be disappointed.

Profile Image for Ele Munjeli.
21 reviews7 followers
October 19, 2009
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 politics of modern anti-terrorism. I lagged to read it, thinking I wasn't ever really in the mood for the topic; but once I picked it up, I gobbled it down in a day. Courage is absurd, and admirable even when it lodges in desperation and madness. The book entertained me, in spite of the violent and panicked imagery, because it relied on the only weapons effective against fear: understanding, creative thought, and love.
Profile Image for Holly.
526 reviews8 followers
December 20, 2013
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 story...Nope...all in his imagination. I very much liked Little Bee too. These are definitely not fluff books and unfortunately some readers give them bad reviews based on the heaviness of the subject matter which I feel is unfair. It's like downgrading a children's book for being too simplistic. Or maybe a war novel because it's got violence and death. If readers can't handle books like these they should stick to Young Adult, romance, or Chick Lit. TORCH
Profile Image for Bronwen.
87 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2009
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.
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