From Publishers Weekly
An al-Qaeda bomb attack on a London soccer match provides the tragicomic donnée 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.
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An all-around stunning novel. Even if Incendiary
hadnt eerily predicted the bombings on the London Tube (and hit British bookstores that same day), it would rank as one of this seasons novels to be missed at your own peril (unless youre swearing by Michiko Kakutani, who deemed the book in poor taste). Cleave has mimicked the voice of a working-class woman with remarkable persuasivenessthough non-British readers may wallow in East End slang confusion. A formal journalist, he has brought an eye for detail and political commentary to his fiction. A little parodyand a little sexdeflect the novels unbearable sobriety, if the narrators affair belies credibility. Take that, Jonathan Safran Foer and Ian McEwan! Cleaves debut could be considered the finest post-9/11 terrorism novel yet.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.