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Submergenceby J M Ledgard
Synopses & Reviews
"[T]he best novel I've read so far this year. . . . I started Submergence one afternoon, cut short a social event that evening to keep reading, stepped off a train at midnight with twenty pages left, and stood under a light on the platform to finish them . . . strange, intelligent, gorgeously written . . . Submergence is a dark book, but in such an unusual sense: Ledgard turns out the lights, and everything, inside and out, begins to glow."—Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine
"Every once in a while, a critic will be mesmerized by a book that stands out from—even wipes the floor with—all other books that have come his way of late. . . . Prose merges with poetry; shocks detonate like depth charges, and characters fates actually matter in Submergence, an astonishing novel that utterly immerses the reader."—Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"An extraordinary fusion of science and lyricism. . . . [A] darkly gleaming novel about love, deserts, oceans, lust and terror."—Alan Cheuse, NPR's "All Things Considered"
"Ledgard has given, in Submergence, glimpses of very strange life indeed: the spy in a place so lawless that chaos is the only norm, the scientist in our planets least knowable region, lovers expert at self-containment. Out of this, acute understandings emerge."—New York Times Book Review
In a room with no windows on the coast of Africa, an Englishman, James More, is held captive by jihadist fighters. Posing as a water expert to report on al-Qaeda activity in the area, he now faces extreme privation, mock executions, and forced marches through the arid badlands of Somalia. Thousands of miles away on the Greenland Sea, Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician, half-French, half-Australian, prepares to dive in a submersible to the ocean floor. She is obsessed with the life that multiplies in the darkness of the lowest strata of water.
Both are drawn back to the previous Christmas, and to a French hotel on the Atlantic coast, where a chance encounter on the beach led to an intense and enduring romance. For James, his mind escapes to utopias both imagined and remembered. Danny is drawn back to beginnings: to mythical and scientific origins, and to her own. It is to each other and to the ocean that they most frequently return: magnetic and otherworldly, a comfort and a threat.
J. M. Ledgard was born in the Shetland Islands. He has been a correspondent for The Economist since 1995, specializing in foreign political and war reporting. He currently works in Africa, traveling widely in the continent.
"This beautifully written novel, the second from Ledgard (after Giraffe), a correspondent for the Economist based in Africa, tells two stories in parallel. James More, a British spy posing as a water engineer, is taken captive by jihadists in Somalia; the counterpoint to this viscerally horrific tale is his love affair with Danielle Flinders, a 'biomathematician' working in the field of oceanography. The affair is related as a series of flashbacks from a recent vacation in France. The book is told in short, episodic chapters that probably reflect the journalistic sensibilities of the author, who not only captures the enormous barbarity of More's al-Qaeda captors but also manages to convey some of their innate humanity. But there is no sentimentalizing of the evils of the jihadists, 'empowered by the prospect of martyrdom' and comforted by a 'medieval' fatalism. (In one horrifying scene, a young girl in Kismayo, Somalia, is gang-raped — then 'convicted' of adultery by the local Muslim cleric and sentenced to death by stoning.) Danielle's milieu, the deep ocean (which 'challenges our sense of who we are and where we came from'), offers a contrast to the gruesome and misguided efforts of Islamic fundamentalism. The book is exciting in the way of a thriller, though Ledgard seems uninterested in maintaining or even developing that sense of suspense. What makes the book remarkable is its poetically rendered and remarkably intelligent glosses on Islamic fundamentalism versus the West, on Africa, and on the oceans. This may be more of a novel of ideas than a novel full stop, but it is profoundly readable and unfailingly interesting. Agent: Gillon Aitken, Aitken Alexander Associates." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Award-winning foreign correspondents cerebral spy novel-cum-love story exposes humanitys tenuous hold on a vast and relentless world.
About the Author
J. M. Ledgard was born in the Shetland Islands. He has been a correspondent for The Economist since 1995, specialising in foreign political and war reporting. He currently works in Africa, travelling widely in the continent. He is also considered a leading thinker on risk and technology in emerging economies.
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