You really have to give some giant props to a novel that starts out, "Dear Osama." What follows is a searing portrait of a woman riven by grief, pain, guilt, and horror at the (particularly gruesome) death of her husband and child due to a terrorist attack. While Cleave sure knows how to plumb the depths of current events, he also creates characters who are flawed, duplicitous, and stupid: clearly all too real. Yet, they struggle through their crises with tender underbellies, which mark them as vulnerable and make their morally complicated stories beautiful. Bravo! Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
At once a novel and an open letter to Osama bin Laden, Incendiary
is a shocking, hilarious, and heartbreaking debut that crashes head on into huge questions of right and wrong, good and evil, madness and sanity.
Incendiary is the story of a working class woman who likes her simple life: watching Arsenal matches on the telly with her husband and little boy, fishsticks for dinner in their small flat, the occasional trip to the pub.
One spring afternoon the woman, whom we know only by the nickname “Petal”, watches her husband and their son head happily off to Ashburton Grove, Arsenal’s brand new stadium, to see their favourite team play. A few hours later the horror of a terrorist bombing plays out on her television — the bombing of Ashburton Grove.
“Petal” tells her own story in an extraordinary voice, one both desperate and sharply funny, speaking directly to the man responsible for the bombing. She shows the reader an incredible world, a London that is not quite real, in a time that is not quite our own. And as deeply enmeshed as the reader becomes in her reality, a tiny, persistent doubt begins to creep in about just what is reality and what is a manifestation of her griefstricken and distraught imagination.
Dear Osama they want you dead or alive so the terror will stop. Well I wouldn’t know about that I mean rock ’n’ roll didn’t stop when Elvis died on the khazi it just got worse. Next thing you know there was Sonny & Cher and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I’ll come to them later. My point is it’s easier to start these things than to finish them. I suppose you thought of that did you?
There’s a reward of 25 million dollars on your head but don’t lose sleep on my account Osama. I have no information leading to your arrest or capture. I have no information full effing stop. I’m what you’d call an infidel and my husband called working class. There is a difference you know. But just supposing I did clap eyes on you. Supposing I saw you driving a Nissan Primera down towards Shoreditch and grassed you to the old bill. Well. I wouldn’t know how to spend 25 million dollars. It’s not as if I’ve got anyone to spend it on since you blew up my husband and my boy.
—excerpt from Indendiary
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
About the Author
Chris Cleave was born in London in 1973, and spent his earliest years in Cameroon, where his dad built the Guinness brewery. In 1991 he wrote a novel called The Roadkill Cookbook
and went to Balliol College, Oxford, which he left with a First in Experimental Psychology. After having worked sailing yachts from the south of France to the Eastern Mediterranean for their owners and as a busboy in Melbourne, Australia, he returned to London and spent three years with The Telegraph
. In 2000 he met Clémence. They moved to Paris, and he now divides his time between playing with his son Louis and writing a new London-based novel. Incendiary
will be his first published book.
From the Hardcover edition.