A distraught woman writes a letter to Osama bin Laden after her four-year-old son and her husband are killed in a massive suicide bomb attack at a soccer match in London. In an emotionally raw voice alive with grief, compassion, and startling humor, she tries to convince Osama to abandon his terror campaign by revealing to him the desperate sadness--"I am a woman built on the wreckage of myself"--and the broken heart of a working-class life blown apart. But the bombing is only the beginning. While security measures transform London into a virtual occupied territory, the narrator, too, finds herself under siege. At first she gains strength by fighting back, taking a civilian job with the police to aid the antiterrorist effort. But when she becomes involved with an upper-class couple, she is drawn into a psychological maelstrom of guilt, ambition, and cynicism that erodes her faith in the society she's working to defend. And when a new bomb threat sends the city into a deadly panic ("It was a panic like the darkest dream and the more people ran out onto the streets the bigger the panic got like a monster made of human beings") she is pushed to acts of unfathomable desperation--perhaps her only chance for survival. A surreal vision made brilliantly, viscerally powerful and undeniable,Incendiaryis a stunning debut novel. The author responded to the tragic events which took place in London on July 7, 2005. Visit his website to read this response, and participate in a forum on the book. (Link provided below.)
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"An al-Qaeda bomb attack on a London soccer match provides the tragicomic donnee of former Daily Telegraph journalist Cleave's impressive multilayered debut: a novel-length letter from an enraged mother to Osama bin Laden. Living hand to mouth in London's East End, the unnamed mother's life is shattered when her policeman husband (part of a bomb disposal unit) and four-year-old son are killed in the stadium stands. Complicating matters: our narrator witnesses the event on TV, while in the throes of passion with her lover, journalist Jasper Black. The full story of that day comes out piecemeal, among rants and ruminations, complete with the widow's shell-shocked sifting of the stadium's human carnage. London goes on high terror alert; the narrator downs Valium and gin and clutches her son's stuffed rabbit. After a suicide attempt, she finds solace with married police superintendent Terrence Butcher and in volunteer work. When the bomb scares escalate, actions by Jasper and his girlfriend Petra become the widow's undoing. The whole is nicely done, as the protagonist's headlong sentences mimic intelligent illiteracy with accuracy, and her despairingly acidic responses to events-and media versions of them-ring true. But the working-class London slang permeates the book to a distracting degree. Agent, Jennifer Joel at ICM. First printing 100,000. (Aug. 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved